Thursday, September 17, 2009

And now... loons of the left prove that it isn't a monopoly

All right then, you've been warned to expect some of my trademarked "contrariness," this time.  A tendency -- call it a compulsion -- to always turn and point in some unexpected direction, especially if I have been looking one way for too long.  It drives everything from my chosen profession to science to politics.

And yes, today I plan to take a break from decrypting the political madness of the far-right and instead point my j'accuse finger to the left.

But first, do not even begin to interpret what I am about to say as "both sides are equally crazy."  Anyone who read my previous missives can tell which direction I condemn most harshly, as the core of madness and outright treason in American life.  I've spoken at length about the rightwing cult that has taken over the conservative movement, sending poor Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave and betraying America by sending our great nation into debilitating "culture war."   It is still monstrous and unbelievable that Rupert Murdoch and his co-conspirators can get away with posing as populists, while pursuing oligarchic takeover of the country.  Without  any doubt, that is the direction from which civilization and the American Republic face their greatest danger.

Anyone who doubts the tenacity with which I've fought this fight should have a glance at any of the following extended (and, I'm told, influential) missives:
http://www.davidbrin.com/neoromantics.htm
http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.htm
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/09/real-bush-war-neocons-vs-us-military.html

Nevertheless, I have also made clear my utter contempt for those who simply choose one of the major ideological cults and thereafter march in uncritical lockstep.  People who pronounce themselves proud individualists, but then turn their suspicion of authority reflexes in only one direction.
Yes, the right is presently far more noxious and dangerous, having allowed their entire movement to be taken over by monsters.  But Lefties who forget Stalin and Mao are intellectually as bankrupt as righties who ignore 4,000 years of oppression by kings and lords and preisthoods.

In fact, nearly all ideologues can be categorized together by a set of sharedpersonality traits that run deeper than their differences of surface policy.  Far-lefties and far-righties both partake, for example, in a near-universal propensity for dismissing civil society as futile.

 Contempt for the masses is the common steam that rises from every pore, as they preen over things that they "know" that "the majority is too blind to see."

(Am I unaware of the irony of my having typed the previous three paragraphs?  Since a majority of my fellow citizens do seem to swallow the abysmal notion of "left-vs'right" - doesn't that make me a masses-contemptuous snob?  Har!  Hey, I am human too.  The difference is that I know this pitfall and have schooled myself to be wary of it.  And yes, that is snobbery, too.)

So, as promised, I am going to offer a little balance, this time.  To remind us that the left can be as crazy as the right (even while being less dangerous, during THIS decade) go have a look at a horrific piece of preening nonsense that keeps being sent to me by liberals, who think that it is the best thing since spray-on cheese. It's called Sheeple of Amerika.

Feh!  Gawd, this thing is a calumny, on so many levels that I am tempted to call it deliberate psychological warfare against the Enlightenment.  Perhaps one of Murdoch's put-up provocations, crafted precisely in order to undermine liberal credibility.

Look, no one can teach me a thing about rambunctious contrarianism and suspicion of authority.

But think.  What is the most pervasive and relentless "propaganda" campaign in the history of the world?

When asked this question, people name all sorts of messages that they perceive as responsible for turning the masses into contemptible sheep.  Lefties point to pervasive "buy this" consumerism.  Rightists screech over the other side's incessant demands for conformist political correctness.  What's never mentioned is the propaganda that actually worked... on them!  If you asked these guys for a week, a year, and even if their lives depended on it, they would never guess.

Surprise, surprise. We are self-flatterers and so we never attribute OUR favorite traits to propaganda that filled our very pores, from a young age.  But there's a pair of messages that inarguably and statistically outnumber both "buy this" and Tolerance Fetishism, combined.

 We all grew up suckling Suspicion of Authority (SOA) combined with "I'm a F4$#$@king individual and everybody else are lemmings!" 

You see these twin themes conveyed in nearly every film, most of which also portray civilization itself (and its institutions) as utterly hopeless.  Usually evil. With some central/awful authority being bravely opposed by one -- or a few -- stalwart individualist heroes who don't need no institutions to stand between them and justice!

Think about it.  List the themes in nearly every Hollywood product.  Name any messages that occur more often than this pair.  But people never notice the propaganda that made THEM the way they are.  Now add in the most alluring theme of all.  Yes, our old pal contempt for the masses.  Go ahead and TEST YOURSELF with my questionnaire.


So, will Brin ever get to the point? How does all of this apply to "Sheeple"?

Let's be frank.  THE message of this 'film' is not urging folks to wake up, or fomenting rebellion; it is contempt. Feeding the producers' sanctimonious sense that they are privileged and smarter and more insightful than their sheeplike neighbors, like gods above mere animals.  Self-flattery is the cheapest drug around.  Any addict can get all he wants, and these guys have it hard. http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.htm

But it gets worse. For, you see, it's been shown that the surest way to get the masses under control is NOT to inculcate worshipful passivity, but rather to spread a dull, simmering state of generalized resentment, aimed in all directions and at each other.

What?  You've never studied Machiavelli?  Really? What do you think "culture war" is all about? The whole "populist" theme driving Red America to hate the cities and anyone with a graduate degree?

  The formula is simple. Inundate the prols with distractions that scatter their SOA in every direction.  And if some of those directions are "up" toward some corporations and meeting groups of the rich?  So what? So long as you shotgun a vast number of targets, you'll keep it scattered. Impotent. (Notice though, the Sheeple guys never mention Rupert Murdoch or the petroprinces who have been doing the most meddling of all.  Gee I wonder why.)

 And so, the ultimate irony.  This is exactly the sort of thing that the masters would want produced!

Do I seriously believe that "Sheeple" was generated at the AEI or Heritage or some other Murdochian pimphouse?  Naw. Funny thing is, they probably got it for free, or maybe with the gentlest prodding.  This shit is self-stirring.

Note that this film -- after purportedly demanding that people "wake up!" -- doesn't suggest any of the things that might ACTUALLY cause sheep to look up... such as actual, pragmatic links to learned and detailed analyses of world power, for example. Or self-organizing tools. Nor does it recommend the kind of "proxy power" organizations that can empower any individual to join with large numbers of others, in common cause to deal, effectively, with specific, targeted issues.

They can't offer such suggestions!  Because that would be to admit that the sheep can and do self-organize, effectively, and we must never admit that!  So, instead, "Sheeple" jumbles a huge goulash. Mixing genuinely worrisome trends, like rising income gaps, with vapid idiocies like 9/11 "loose change" conspiracies and UFO cults.  That's right, keep the paranoia spread evenly, guys.  It's what you're subsidized to do.

Oh, maybe a third of the slides do point to genuine problems that deserve attention, problem-solving appraisal, or even criminal prosecution.  So?  A two-second flicker and each issue joins the jumble of true, false, misleading and just plain stupid.
  
Is the greedy patenting of seed strains and eliminating self-fertility, so that farmers cannot re-seed their fields, evil?  Sure!  Is Genetic Modification of food crops automatically a crime against people and nature?  Bullshit!  That's pure luddite sanctimonious unscientific claptrap and the surest sign of dullard minds, while every single bite of food they eat was genetically modified by previous generations of farmers and breeders. Have these guys helped us to intelligently parse the good parts of a techno future from the bad?  Hah!

If you actually and really want to pragmatically fight evil, promote justice, save the world and advance the Enlightenment, there's a proved method.  One that bypasses all this contempt-for-the-masses malarkey and goes straight to problem solving -- combining the tiny influence of individuals into the momentum of millions.  Drop by the PROXY POWER site.

It will tell you how to do exactly that.

Oog, these guys got me exercised.  And sure, I expect to be derided as a tool of corporate interests, just for criticizing their lobotomized (or else corporate sponsored) uselessness.  But note that I never claimed that they weren't pointing to some genuine enemies of humanity and the world.  As I said, about a third of the slides were completely or partially right-on!

But they aren't helpful.  Not at any level.  As elistists, on a sanctimony drug-high, they are proof that the left contains crazies, too.*  They are part of the problem.  The REAL problem -- the insanity of culture war.

We won't defeat the Rush Limbaughs by acting just like them.  We'll defeat them by being the grownups.

DB


* Reiterating the central point, yet again.  The liberal and conservative movements ARE fundamentally different, today.  Both contain some good ideas, deepdown.  Both contain some crazies.  The crucial distinction is that one of these movements keeps its lunatics marginalized. Its leaders perpetually try -- hit or miss -- to re-awaken the American genius for honorable negotiation and pragmatic problem-solving.

The other side may have some genuine ideas, lying dormant under the snows.  But all its potential good has been rendered useless, by giving itself over, body and soul, to its psychopathic wing.

Do not hate American Conservatism.  Pity it.  Pray for the fever to break and for our fellow citizens to rise out of delirium, to rejoin us at the dinner table conversation about human destiny. And defeat them with reason, until they do.

115 comments:

Joel said...

You're sounding a bit like Jesus, there at the end.

Well, Jesus as told by Walter Wink.

steves said...

he crucial distinction is that one of these movements keeps its lunatics marginalized. Its leaders perpetually try -- hit or miss -- to re-awaken the American genius for honorable negotiation and pragmatic problem-solving.

Problem-solving, I can buy, but honorable negotiation, nope. Where is this happening? Most seem to be taking you mocking tone and focusing ire on the lunatics, ignoring the others. To some degree, this is deserved, but don't pretend that the left wants genuine dialog.

lightning said...

There's a mindboggling amount of crap out there, and we need "rules of thumb" to help us sort out the obvious crap. One of the indicators of absolute crap is any use of the word "sheeple". See that word, you don't need to read any further. As one of E. E. "Doc" Smith's characters put it, "How much of an egg do you have to eat to tell it's rotten?"

Woozle said...

I have to rise to the bait and point out that if you're lumping "vapid idiocies like 9/11" in with teabagging, creationism, birthers, ten percenters, flat earthers, moon landing hoaxers, etc., then you're falling victim to the same divide-and-conquer strategy you rightly identify as a major threat.

There is actually some serious evidence behind the 9/11 "truth" movement, but unless you happen to tune in to the right web sites, you'll never see it -- and instead will only be presented with the nuttiest straw-man version of it.

Other than that... yes, I totally agree (though now I've come out in sympathy with 9/11 conspiracists, you'd probably rather I didn't...). Most of the time I've seen "the masses" at odds with what "the government" says or wants, "the masses" have looked pretty sensible... depending on who you define as "the masses", I suppose. (I don't count astroturfed teabag parties, or demand more details about the latest fashion craze/diet/star as "masses"; they are all products of the media. I mean people who bother to argue their opinion and listen to the counterarguments of others. That whole "civil society" thing.)

I'll definitely put my trust in those masses over the philosopher kings beloved of the Right's elite, and over whatever it is the left wants (anarchy? but that's Libertarians...) when they aren't sensibly trying to fix broken and corrupted governmental processes or create new ones that work better.

And on that note... Having looked at it a little bit, I think social engineer's Chagora project looks like an excellent tool for bottom-up governance, and I think it could fit in very well with the more comprehensive solution I've been working on (shall I pimp it yet again? Okay, I shall - InstaGov -- especially the idea of collective action) -- not to mention your own notion of Proxy Power, if I'm understanding that correctly.

Carl M. said...

Um, you didn't hear about the storm troopers pillaging the coop for selling unpasturized milk? Are you aware of the farm animal tracking program that's threatening to put all (animal) mini-farms out of business? Some of the intro stuff on that film is real. Most is crap, however.

But you are completely and utterly wrong on your description of the mindset that produced this video. It's not contempt. It's wishful thinking. It is a desire for a Hollywood ending where the bad guys are unmasked at the end and all is well.

Morton Blackwell of the conservative Leadership Institute wisely pointed out that conspiracy theories are the resort of those out of power. He gloated when Hillary talked of a vast right wing conspiracy; he knew it was a sign that his side was winning. (It was at the time.)

The small farm/small business/independent tradesman faction in this country has been losing for a long time. They've been squeezed out by the corporate cheerleaders on the one side and big government/big academia on the other.

America has a third faction. It sometimes looks right wing (think Pat Buchanan) and sometimes left wing (as in this film).

---

Before you discount the conspiracy set too much, however, check out this piece by your polar opposite, the Darth Vader to your Han Solo. The imfamous Mencius Moldbug makes a strong case that the American Revolution was triggered by such conspiracy theorizing.

Rob said...

Defeat them with reason?

Oh, how I have tried.

Case in point. I was told by a conservative Democrat relative that we can't have government run health care. (Leave aside the fact that it's not really on the table to force people into hyper-Medicare.)

The reason? "There are $6 billion per year of fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare!"

My answer was to ask, "How much is that as a percentage of total expenditures? How much is that per capita of enrollees? Per capita of all households? How does the figure compare to fraud perpetrated on a non-profit health plan? How about a for-profit health plan?"

And so forth.

He had no answers to the question, just a reference to an article in Reader's Digest which I can't find in my pile of magazines.

Failing any answers, he made a noise about a website referenced in the article.

Reason begets questions. If the questions have no answers, that's worse than if the questions had unpleasant answers, because one can continue to believe that the questions have the right answers.

The answers? I looked later, and they're muddled. My relative claimed $6 billion in fraud to Medicare, which amounts to around 1.3% or 1.4%. of the budget for Medicare. Insurancefraud.org claims $60 billion for Medicare and Medicaid combined, which would be around 13.5%, I guess. Around $600/year per American household. But Insurancefraud.org is a front for the private insurers' lobby.

I could go on. The point is that if your conservative believes hard, the way my near-retirement relatives do, it will be more than a tough sell.
That's not nothing, but I wonder if people wouldn't think it worth the cost, especially if a slightly higher Medicare tax could enliven some inspectors general to look into and audit out the fraud.

Robert said...

There is a simple reason for conspiracy theories and their popularity. People want someone or a group of somebodies to be in control of things. If there is a Big Bad who is pulling the strings and making things happen, then the situation is controllable, and can be changed if the puppet master is cast down.

That's not how civilization works, however. We are in a state of randomness and chaos with only marginal control over things. At any moment, things could spiral out of control if someone did something truly stupid. And the realization of how chaotic the system is and how fragile it is is frightening.

Thus intelligent and imaginative people buy into conspiracy theories because the alternative is to realize just how powerless not only they are... but how powerless everyone is. It's realizing that a life-killing asteroid could skim our atmosphere without us knowing it was there until the last minute... and yet have it miss. And that there is nothing we can do about it.

Of course, that doesn't quite explain the global warming deniers. I mean, here we have a massive system where we can make a difference if we change how we live. Yet people don't want to make that change. They don't want to believe their actions have an influence on the world. They think that their own footprint is so minor that even if they change it won't make a difference. (Never mind that if every single person were to pick up and properly dispose of one piece of garbage, then the world would be a hell of a lot more cleaner.)

So. Why do people refuse to accept this responsibility? Because responsibility is frightening. And this may also tie into the conspiracy theorists... because if one person or one group is behind it all... then they bear responsibility, rather than everyone bearing that responsibility.

The thing is... growing up is the process of taking responsibility for your own actions. Perhaps... we as a species needs to collectively grow up. Before it's too late.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

Guys, I just re-read http://www.davidbrin.com/1947.htm

It is totally what I have to say about this stuff.

Somehow, I gotta find a way to get these things out there better.

CulturalEngineer said...

Great article...

And big thanks to Woozle for taking the time to look over Chagora

Governments arose with the birth of agriculture and the disconnection between natural human community (Dunbar's Number) and the size of the necessary functional social organism for this new economic form.

When combined with issues of proximity and the limits of biological altruism you end up with classes, slavery and oligarchies.

see The Foundations of Authoritarianism

The task of good government DESIGN is to interrupt the hierarchical inertia and inbreeding (which unfortunately are a NATURAL but unhealthy product of this scaling beyond Dunbar's Number) with horizontal, distributed sources of influence.

The Chagora design may be an essential and fundamental element for a new landscape.

ICT (Information & Communication Technology) is triggering the most fundamental changes to human social structures since the birth of agriculture...

And may well be the first opportunity to seriously address the problems which arose then.

Or not...

That's going to be up to us!

http://CulturalEngineer.blogspot.com

Changes in social structure and technology make no solution final... these are dynamic complex/chaotic systems.

I believe the Chagora structure (including its ownership and monetization plan) defines a needed landscape for speech and association (this includes journalism) as humanity strives to emerge from the egg.

Woozle said...

Robert said: "People want someone or a group of somebodies to be in control of things."

This seems backward to me. Even if you look only at the most wacko conpiracists, they are questioning the established order -- the "truth" given by the people "in control" -- not embracing it.

Furthermore, it seems to me that most people who reject conspiracy theories are taking comfort from the belief that the people "in control" are benevolent, if not always competent; they are the ones who "want someone ... to be in control of things".

But maybe you're thinking of a specific set of "conspiracy theories" that haven't occurred to me.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Robert,

I think the popularity of conspiracy theories is a lot more complex than a simple desire to imagine that people are controlling things. Not only does it run counter to my own train of thought when pondering various 'conspiracy theories' (the notion that there are people powerful enough to have that much control over society, and that we are effectively powerless to resist them is very disturbing). In fact, such concepts run counter to what you posit, because the notion that other people have enough power and influence over society that any attempt to really control your own life is futile, only engenders an increased sense of helplessness and powerlessness. Even in the random chaos that is every-day life, people still have some measure of control and influence over their lives, and how they respond to things beyond their control.

That also doesn't fully describe the fascination people have with conspiracy theories, which runs parallel to our fascination with gossip, etc., I think. Everybody loves a conspiracy, for many different reasons, and that makes nailing down one or two specific universal reasons for the human fascination with conspiracy next to impossible, because I don't think they exist.


A major influencing factor, though, is the propaganda Dr. Brin mentioned. All through our media, from Hollywood to books to comics to music and so much more, you can find a subtle lacing of suspicion of authority, and extreme individualism. As Dr. Brin pointed out, so often the hero of a story is someone who discovered secrets the 'sheeple' masses are ignorant of, sometimes willingly so, and struggles in solitude or near-solitude against the massive conspiracy behind the curtain. That fantasy has been deeply ingrained in us almost from birth, which helps to explain the fascination with conspiracies where a handful of people are fighting against a massive conspiracy that the rest of the 'sheeple' society completely misses.


Also, I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why socialism is bad.

David Brin said...

Woozle: "Furthermore, it seems to me that most people who reject conspiracy theories are taking comfort from the belief that the people "in control" are benevolent, if not always competent; they are the ones who "want someone ... to be in control of things".


Wha? This sentence makes no sense at all, Woozle. First, are you saying that ALL conspiracies are true??? Second, who the F#$k ever said that BS about "benevolent"? Have you ever heard me call GW Bush that?

Loose Change and its ilk are crap because they are complete loony nose drip ravings. Conspiracies require a burden of proof based at least a bit upon cause and effect.

Illithi, socialism is deeply flawed in many ways. It has its uses, but:

1) even Marxists distrusted it over the long term! Did you know that? The socialism of the Soviet Union was intended to be a transitional phase, meant to guide Russia etc past the painful era of industrial capitalization, till the means of production were all "complete" ... (actually, this was a profound BETRAYAL of Marxism, but let's not get diverted)...

...at which point the socialist state would wither away and individuals would simply interact with each other in total freedom.

The fact is that Karl Marx's desired ultimate communist end state differed NOT A WHIT from the idealized end state envisioned by libertarians. !! They differ only over HOW to get there.
See:: http://www.reformthelp.org/theory/generalizing/foe.php
and... http://www.reformthelp.org/theory/positioning/models.php

This irony might be thought provoking... if anybody ever bothered to read Marx or study what the $#$#@ words like "socialism," "communism" and all that actually meant. But we don't study, the way our ancestors did. We just spout.

2) The Soviet experiment was actually very useful and interesting. It showed that socialist approaches can be very effective at achieving SIMPLE goals. Train a lot of doctors and distribute them to the masses for universal health care? Cuba did that right away. Build a lot of dams and railroads to create primary infrastructure? Russia did that fairly well (if less efficiently or effectively than our semi-socialist interstate highway and rail system.)

What socialism has proved utterly incompetent at is engendering the secondary and tertiary levels of economic activity that are involved in creativity and efficiently distributing capital so it is invested in achieving goals that the people actually want. They STILL can't make a decent refrigerator in Russia, because of very bad socialist mental habits.

3) Socialism winds up being a power-agglomeration method, and thus is extremely easy to pervert by a core group. It may even have started idealistic! But humans are inherently self-deceiving rationalizing oppressors and whatever committee you set up will inevitably become an oligarchy.

David Brin said...

CULTURAL ENGINEER has it partly right.

Governments arose with the birth of agriculture and the disconnection between natural human community (Dunbar's Number) and the size of the necessary functional social organism for this new economic form. 

When combined with issues of proximity and the limits of biological altruism you end up with classes, slavery and oligarchies.

Well, partly right. Dunbar's number is plain silly. But it aims at a real wisdom, that large human groups with metallurgy & farms tend to drift toward feudalism. Always have. The natural human system and it sucks.

THE ENLIGHTENMENT methods for resisting this trend have always depended upon pitting power groups against each other through processes of reciprocal accountability. Markets, democracy, science, courts... are all variations on this theme, that competition, under tuned rules and fair playing fields unleashes human potential and helps to stave off cheating.

(For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit." or at: http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html)

Sometimes the problem solving, pragmatic solution to a massive problem is a socialistic one. Mass public education ended the waste of half of society's talent. We should do the same for children's health. Etc. But socialism is also deeply worrisome and flawed and needs to be watched with a very wary eye.

Almost as wary as when we stare down the current far bigger threat -- the return of conspiratorial/collusive crony plutocrat feudalism.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

Socialism is very good at distributing abundant and/or critical resources, which capitalism often has trouble doing. When there is plenty of a resource to go around for everyone, market competition breaks down, because the supply exceeds the demand (this ties in with why supply-sided market economics don't work), profit margins shrink, companies go out of business en mass, and the few companies left producing/supplying the resource are able to control the prices to their benefit with little resistance from market competition. Market competition also breaks down with critical resources, as well, because when people have to buy a product, regardless of the cost, companies can easily raise prices exorbitantly, even with market competition, because people have to buy the product no matter what it's priced.

This is where socialism is very good, and capitalism tends to perform poorly (especially if a resource is both abundant AND necessary). Socialism is not so good at distributing non-abundant resources that are not critical or necessary, like most luxury goods, and that is where capitalism and free enterprise work very well. Socialism isn't a one-size fits all solution that is perfect without any form of regulation, just like the free market; both are tools that can be very useful, when applied to the right jobs, and with the right precautions.

A properly implemented socialist system will also not stifle innovation and creativity, and can even create competition, if properly implemented, though a properly-implemented socialist system isn't pure socialism, but rather a hybrid of socialism and free enterprise (such as we see in Star Trek, for example).

David Brin said...

Ilithi, sorry, but that makes no sense at all. Even if a resource is abundant and prices are low, that simply changes the market situation in which the most creative and efficient capitalists can make a profit delivering the goods at low margins. Dig it, FOOD is incredibly cheap in America. And yes, that makes it very hard to make a profit with grocery stores. All the mom&pop ones vanished but supermarket chains do it very well, delivering with titanic efficiency... and FAR better than socialist societies ever did.

Your argument re scarcity is better... though things are very complex. You leave out that scarcity driven high prices then PROPEL capitalists to invest in finding new sources, at their own (and investors') risk, thus removing the need for the state to waste a lot of time arguing and allocating taxed funds. Again THIS WORKS... (the "peak oil" crisis is passing -- for now)...

...though with many complexities. Including the ever-present dangers of price gouging, monopoly, market manipulation and the inherent unfairness of only letting the rich have some things that aren't exactly voluntary goods.

"A properly implemented socialist system will also not stifle innovation and creativity, and can even create competition, if properly implemented, though a properly-implemented socialist system isn't pure socialism, but rather a hybrid of socialism and free enterprise (such as we see in Star Trek, for example)."

TO an extent, you are saying something valid. But I really don't think you get it.

Socialism is a way to ensure

1) that absolute minimal standards of decency are maintained. Even libertarian Robert Heinlein said that "food should be free..." though not a chef's talent at competitively and creatively preparing it.

2) ensuring that society and capitalism get the maximized FEED STOCK of young talent, starting into the competitive scene from some degree of equal opportunity. This is simple common sense and distortions of competitive opportunity are the biggest reason that most societies failed. Among Adam Smith's biggest complaints, too.

Hence, public education and civil rights are essential for PRACTICAL reasons, even more than moral ones.

3) Defense, plus law & order, plus enforcement of contracts (even Ayn Rand conceded this one), plus a monopoly on force (thoroughly supervised and restrained by accountability)...

4) Infrastructure... that PRIMARY ECONOMY I spoke of. Also, the seeding of NEW playing fields for future competitive fecundity... the Internet proves that this can be one of the greatest uses of socialism.

5) Pursuit of goals that have no alluring rate of near-term return, and yet have great intrinsic value. Basic research. Space telescopes and such.

6) Providing an inherent systemic bias to perpetually look out for the recurring disease of oligarchic feudalism. Note, however, as I said, that socialism itself can offer a ROAD TO THIS FAILURE MODE.

Having said all that, let me remind you that there's a LOT of literature on this subject. Anyone who hasn't read Marx, Lenin, the thirties idealists, libertarianism, Rand, and all the other rationalizers, and seen their common themes, is ill equipped to pierce the NEW rationalizations.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

My example was over-simplified, and abbreviated (poorly), because I don't have enough extra time here at work to go into any great length, so yeah, you're right, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I will try to elaborate properly over the weekend, if I get the chance.

Robert said...

There's another way to look at conspiracy theories and the people who believe in a Secret World Order: this is the new opiate of the masses, the new religion. God is dead. Nietzsche struck him down with a salvo of philosophy and consumerism has salted the soil it grew in. People are moving away from organized religion (which has proven to be a crisis of faith for several organized religions) and instead are becoming more eclectic in their faith, at least in the U.S.

However, humanity seems to have a mental wiring in which a higher power is necessary. This is where conspiracy theories come in. The SWO takes the place of God. The Powers That Be end up controlling things from conflicts to nuclear proliferation to food shortages to global warming, all in an effort to juggle various aspects of the world and keep it off-balanced so they can remain in power. And they are in control of this organized chaos.

Hmm. You have an all-powerful entity (organizational) that is in control of everything. Sounds like "God" to me.

That actually might be an interesting survey to start up: determine the religious affiliations and religiosity of the people who believe most strongly in conspiracy theories, to determine if these people are in fact substituting one God for another.

Rob H., in a whimsical mood now that the Weekend has descended upon him...

David Brin said...

Robert, yes. Conspiracies are the rebirth of Manicheanism.

Ed said...

You keep looking for top-down solutions. They aren't coming -- the top is thoroughly bought and paid for.

(What has Obama done to threaten the banking cartel? The military industrial complex? Exactly.)

The real solutions are bottom up, sparked by "an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in the minds of men."

Any proposal for a free and prosperous society that doesn't include an engaged (and dare I add "virtuous"?) populace is folly.

Woozle said...

Dr. B: I apologize; yes, my statement was rather unclear.

Do we have agreement that some "conspiracy theories" (a stock phrase generally taken to mean "any explanation of major events which differs sharply from the official account") are valid, in the sense of being reasonable interpretations of the available evidence?

If we are agreed on this, then I can rephrase thusly -- with the caveat that this particular statement of mine was not directed at you, but in refutation of Robert's statement that conspiracy theories are popular solely because "people want someone or a group of somebodies to be in control of things.":

It seems to me that most people who reject reasonably well-defended "conspiracy" theories out of hand are doing so because they find the implications too frightning; they take comfort from their chosen belief that the people "in control" are, at worst, benignly inept, rather than deeply evil and/or corrupted (as in your blackmail scenario).

Loose Change -- especially the early versions -- had its problems. They bought into some of the more "wacky" straw-man theories I alluded to earlier. I haven't watched the newer versions, but they have reportedly responded to criticism and tightened their arguments.

If you'd like some evidence to look at -- well, there is quite a lot. Where should I start? (If it's any help, here is a range of common positions on the matter, along with my own.)

Again, my apologies for being unclear in my earlier comment.

David Brin said...

Woozle, there was nothing in Loose Change TO improve or tighten.

The fundamental premise, that HUNDREDS of sworn officers of the United States would deliberately engage in months of extended (and bizarrely super-competent) preparations, with the blatant aim of betraying their nation and their oaths, all in an effort to finagle bizarre and stunningly stupid goals, is the most monumental claptrap imaginable, in a mountain of claptrap.

It is Prisoner's Dilemma to the millionth power. The first to blow a whistle send all the others to prison and gets on the cover of Time Magazine. Puh-lease.

There ARE conspiracies. The inner circle tends to be small, tightly motivated and well-controlled (e.g. through blackmail.) Note that I give 80% chance that the ENTIRE Bush Administration was such a cabal aimed at stealing hundreds of billions... and 30% chance that the deepest inner circle of five or six may even have been tools of a hostile foreign power.

The latter part may sound paranoid, but anyone looking at the Bushites' PERFECT record of leaving America worse off would have to be a moron not to at least consider the possibility.

Conspiracies are possible. Enlightenment systems are supposed to make them difficult, but yes, we should be wary.

OTOH, the seductive allure of conspiracy fetishism is exactly as Robert describe. All too often, is is indistinguishable from a drug.

Woozle said...

I am not particularly interested in defending Loose Change, as it was years ago that I saw it and I have not seen the latest version at all.

That said, I do not recall that any large-scale military betrayal was suggested, much less that this formed the cornerstone of its argument.

And, more importantly, the central thrust of the 9/11 Truth movement, as I understand it, certainly does not depend upon or advocate any such hypothesis (although individuals who are part of the movement certainly may, in less cautious moments, speculate wildly about any number of possibilities).

At this point, my primary interest is in (a) collecting, cataloguing and reconciling evidence, (b) making it clear that the official story cannot possibly be true. If you believe it is true as given, then I will be happy to go into detail on that particular.

David Brin said...

The ENTIRE premise of Loose Change is that hundreds of marching moron evil henchmen -- PERFECTLY competent -- conspired together to betray their country, doing it crippling damage in order to achieve bizarre effects that could have been achieved in a million less complicated ways.

ALL stages of the event rely utterly upon coincidences and the PERFECT happenstance of no outsider noticing any of the convoluted preparations, No outside cameras recording a thing.///

There are NO parts of Loose change that don't follow this fundamental premise. And not a single SUB-part that has ever been backed up as even remotely plausible.

I could go on, but why? There can be no better proof that the left has its loonies than this.

sirvan said...

@Joel

I don't think so..

Anonymous said...

Hi david, Cdreid from dailykos here. Just wanted to let you know your main website wont load.

CulturalEngineer said...

Dr. Brin,

Thanks for note on my comment.

On Dunbar's Number I more or less agree in one sense: that it has no precise value numerically, and to the extent it has value in analysis it must be seen as highly variable from individual to individual and even for the individual over time. Further it doesn't represent some hard boundary, but rather only represents the hypothetical point in the mental map between the ingroup and outgroup.

However, in aggregate it's very important in the study of values as they operate throughout a civilization.

e.g. on the issue of wages and compensation...

An individual competes for status WITHIN his/her social network rather than the social organism as a whole.

When social networks become more isolated extremes in compensation become much more possible.

Was Bernie Madoff altruistic and self-sacrificing? Most would say no. So would I. But that may not be the case at all in a biological sense.

It's just that the boundaries of his loyalty may have been limited to a particular group like his immediate family and close friends... for whom he's ready to "take the fall".

Or, for instance, when the size of the House of Representatives was limited early in this century it was in response to their recognition that size had a relationship to the ability of the body to function well.

This understanding has never been extended to their constituents.

ICT is more than a tool or collection of tools. At a certain point a phase transition took place and it became a landscape.

The design of Chagora is a recognition of this new space as a true landscape and that some portion of it must be expressly reserved for public purposes with particular characteristics (such as equal access, ownership-in-common, electoral/geographic networking with systems of scaled anonymity, etc.)

Further, if ICT does truly constitute a new landscape upon which our evolution will take place...

And if we assume that the nature of a landscape has an effect on the life that evolves in it...

THEN...

It would seem that the DESIGN of significant elements of the Internet would bear serious attention and should not be left to market forces especially while that market is so imperfectly functioning.

I believe in markets... however all markets are political (just ask the descendants of the native people who sold Manhattan!)...

Where political design becomes dysfunctional, markets won't function the way Adam Smith envisioned.

The Landscape for political speech and association must be attended to.

I'd like the chance to make the case for this structure. I can't deny I have a lot riding on it... but so do we all.

Woozle said...

Dr. Brin,

Although it doesn't in any sense affect the basic premises of the 9-11 Truth movement as I understand it, I am now downloading the 2007 version of Loose Change so that I can see for myself what its claims are.

For the record, I don't myself believe that any large number of military personnel needed to act disloyally or even misguidedly in order to explain the "conspiracy" interpretation of events (nor do I, on the other hand, find it at all implausible that a few military personnel might have done so, possibly believing they were doing the Right Thing)...

...but in any case, the point is not to argue opinions about whodunnit, but to demand a proper investigation. The 9/11 Commission was, by the admission of many of its own members (e.g. Sen. Max Cleland resigned from it in disgust), a sham; the NIST investigation was scientifically compromised and hence also a sham.

What is truly frightening to me is how many well-meaning, intelligent, and rational people seem to accept this state of affairs, and even attack those who question it, without being able to come up with a reasonable explanation for doing so. (I don't know if I'm referring to you or not, Dr. B; so far you've only really attacked "Loose Change", and that may well be justified. I will be investigating this as time permits.)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see how much you've upset the people posting here with your comments!

I realized decades ago that tha far right and the far left were the same thing when I took part in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmarment in 1986.

We'd been walking across the U.S. for seven months from L.A. to New York and I looked up an old friend in N.Y. who was a political professor who espoused Marx and Engels. He was enraged that I was talking about dialouge with the Soviets and disarmarment, after all the Soviets had ruined communism for everyone!

I'm proud to be a liberal, because I see it as meaning one of broad mind and education. I'm appalled by the bizarre twistings of logic people will put themselves into in the way of 9/11 conspiracies and anti-GM foods.

I'm confidant enough of my overall beliefs to accept good ideas wherever they come.

It's true that genuine dialouge with true believers of whatever stripe are impossible, but it is up to us to try and reach the middle with intelligent argument.

Mel Baker
Professional Journalist

Sociotard said...

I thought that eliminating self-fertility was less an issue of greed and more about what my hippy friends call "Genetic Pollution", where they fear that some GM food crop will crossbreed with wild plants and loose a whole new catagory of invasive species on the ecosystem.

David Brin said...

CulturalEngr I agree with the overall concept, that people behave differently toward those they perceive as within their group "human beings" (see Little Big Man) than toward outsiders.

These group boundaries are fluid and contingent and today's "culture war" is about frightened flag-wavers who can no longer really see all Americans as fellow citizens, but as 'others' to despise (despite getting net taxes from blue cities), circling their wagons around a tighter (quasi-confederate) core.

I spoke of this years ago at:http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_archive.html

"* "Horizon Theory" sorts people out according to how readily they allow themselves to notice when improved safety and prosperity call for an expansion of horizons. This natural trend seems to occur everywhere that humans have established societies -- allowing lower fear levels to translate into farther perspectives in worry, time, and inclusion. But some people and cultures are better at this than others. (Far better at explaining "red-blue differences" than cliches of left or right.)"


Several factors determine the horizon or radius of inclusion. Cultural traditions (e.g. today's Blue-American tolerance fetishism, contra Russian paranoia) can make a big difference. So does the ambient level of fear. As does satiation. The sickness of the right is that they cannot adjust to the horizons needed in a planetary age. The sickness of many on the left is that they are so eager to expand horizons that they forget the value of earlier, tighter loyalties.

I understand the desire to offer fresh political structures. But the chance of something prim and utopian being implemented are nil. What interests me is practical methodologies to make existing Enlightenment institutions work better, and there is one that towers above all others.

Light.

Transparency. However it can be achieved, the result tends to be enhanced reciprocal accountability and health of markets, democracy, science and justice. Pragmatic exceptions (e.g. CIA skullduggery) may be necessary in the short term tactical sense, but they should be in service to a secular trend toward a more open world... the only world in which we win.

Woozle, the LC scenario sees teams crawling up and down the Twin Towers for MONTHS, laying explosives. An airliner (UA 93) was diverted to Ohio, and all the passengers "disposed of" so that a replacement plane could be crashed in Pennsylvania. The plane to hit the Pentagon was a missile instead... counting on NOBODY happening to look as it approached...

I am the LAST one anyone could accuse of "laying down" for the Bushite cabal. WHat infuriates me about Loose Change is how blatantly it was set up to discredit and distract all conspiracy theories about the Bushites. By presenting something so deliberately garish, lobotomized and drooling insane, they have managed to distract from far simpler conspiracy investigations...

...like what happened to the twelve BILLION dollars in cash money that was shipped to Iraq, half of it gone unaccounted for and a billion of it lost by the side of an Iraqi road.

When shit like that is trivial to do, WTF do you need psychopathically batshit insane drivel like Loose Change? Face it. If it isn't the work of provocateurs, aimed at distraction, then it might just as well have been, and it proves that all sides have their monsters.

Mel Baker, we have to realize that "left vs right" is a loony model. Moderate pragmatic problem-solvers who believe in open processes and negotiation are besieged from ALL sides and it is time we got militant! Now, while we actually have some political power and one party is actually controlled, barely, by people like us.

Sociotard, Monsanto et al LOVE the anti-GM movement. It "forces" them to make their seeds non self-fertile, to prevent spread of GM genomes.

DoctorB said...

My problems with most conspiracy theories are practical. It is difficult for a group of any size who has inside knowledge of the conspiracy to remain silent unless there is continuous overwhelming pressure for them to do so (through bribes, blackmail, etc).

On 9/11 specifically I fit somewhere in Woozle's linked levels of belief between B and C. I guess that makes me a deluded dupe of the powers that be. My question to him is what he thinks a thorough investigation would accomplish. I suspect such an exercise would find a government that was caught totally off guard, afraid to launch fighters against passenger jets and not knowing what the hijackers were up to until the second plane hit the WTC. I agree that it is possible that the US military shot down the jet over PA. It isn't as inspiring a story, but does not require any kind of grand conspiracy.

To me, the hallmark of conspiracy theories is their insistence on reports perfectly representing events. They almost always involve finding minor inconsistencies and blowing them out of proportion to darkly suggest some shadowy cabal. I am a trained historian, and so know that these various reports came from people and that people make mistakes. Observers don't always see the same things even looking at the same event. Their own biases color their reports after the fact.

Even video evidence is not ideal because the person watching the video does not know the method used to make the film, and does not have inside knowledge of the investigation happening when it was shot. Add to that shadows and other odd shapes that appear when single frames are pulled out and we cannot be sure what we are looking at.

Until a conspiracy theorist can show me positive evidence of a conspiracy rather than "inconsistencies" then I will remain skeptical in direct proportion to the number of people who would have had to know about the conspiracy.

Rob said...

today's "culture war" is about frightened flag-wavers who can no longer really see all Americans as fellow citizens,

That cuts both ways.

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/?p=5854

Woozle said...

Answering Dr. Brin's statements:

"the LC scenario sees teams crawling up and down the Twin Towers for MONTHS, laying explosives."

I'll be looking for that when I watch the video. What I remember is not that this was required by any hypothesis set forth, but rather that there was evidence of something like this happening -- witnesses (people who worked in the towers) described power outages over one or more weekends for "maintenance purposes", and "security personnel" of some sort were observed doing mysterious things. No security cameras were rolling, apparently, because of the power outages (why didn't they have battery backup? wouldn't that be a normal security precaution? why was there not the least official investigation into this, given what happened -- if only to clear up doubts?).

"An airliner (UA 93) was diverted to Ohio, and all the passengers "disposed of" so that a replacement plane could be crashed in Pennsylvania."

Yeah, that one's wacked out. I think the LC writers were possibly led astray by the existence of Operation Northwoods, in which a similar plane-swapping false-flag scheme was proposed by the US military (with Cuba as the fall guy) but rejected by JFK.

Note, though, the similarities between this actual military proposal and some of the more "wacky" 9/11 conspiracy theories. Is it any wonder people go a little overboard in their theorizing on this?

"The plane to hit the Pentagon was a missile instead... counting on NOBODY happening to look as it approached..."

There are some oddities about this event, but it does seem very likely that it was, in fact, a plane. Whether it was AA77 is considerably more in question -- but still, there is no clear evidence saying otherwise. The Truth movement is not unified in its position on this matter, which does not help its public credibility.

The fact that the government steadfastly refuses to release the majority of the video records made of the collision (many of them made by privately-owned security cameras), seized by the FBI soon afterwards, only fuels the fire of debate.

I do agree that the left does have its raving nutters, and its insane causes. I do suspect we are being used in many, many ways by carefully seeding the incredible among the credible, freely mixing truth and lies to keep us all guessing. I also suspect that many seemingly complex issues would be much simpler and clearer if it were not for this systematic agenda-driven clouding.

Creating tools to allow us to track and overcome these deceptions will be vital, if civilization is to survive.

Will answer "DoctorB" (not Brin) next...

Woozle said...

Now answering "DoctorB" (not Brin):

"It is difficult for a group of any size who has inside knowledge of the conspiracy to remain silent unless there is continuous overwhelming pressure for them to do so (through bribes, blackmail, etc).

...or unless they are psychopathic, brainwashed, and/or dead. I'm sure the CIA could produce personnel meeting those first two requirements on request, and there have already been a number of suspicious deaths related to 9/11 knowledge (both "insider" and witness). Those who did manage to come forward with testimony have been systematically omitted from mainstream media reporting, or else had their stories misrepresented to the point of uselessness.

"My question to him is what he thinks a thorough investigation would accomplish."

Where to start? The volume of questions officials have casually declined to answer is simply staggering. A proper inquiry would force answers, under oath. A proper investigation would require bringing out withheld evidence.

In the interest of not completely hijacking Contrary Brin for the sacred cause of 9/11 Truth, I've posted some significant questions (just the ones which occurred to me thinking about it for about 5 minutes) off-site.

"I suspect such an exercise would find a government that was caught totally off guard, afraid to launch fighters against passenger jets and not knowing what the hijackers were up to until the second plane hit the WTC."

As I understand it, fighter interceptions of suspected hijacks were routine -- until 9/11. Not one fighter even got close to any of those planes, according to the official account. The ground-to-air defenses of the Pentagon were somehow bypassed. This was a shocking lapse of security protocol -- yet none of those directly involved were even reprimanded; many have since been promoted.

Trying to keep this from being hopelessly long; if there are any points you would really like to see me address, please bring them up again.

Tim H. said...

An interesting angle on 9/11 and WTC collapse can be found here:
http://jamesphogan.com/bb/bulletin.php?id=107 Suggests that non-asbestos insulation in the upper floors of the WTC had a role in the collapse.
Transitioning from a working tech with issues before a replacement is ready seems to be a traditional folly.

DoctorB said...

Re: Woozle

I notice that you missed one of my main points. Pointing out anomalies or inconsistencies while leaving it up to the fertile imagination of your audience to come up with who or why someone would do this is a hallmark of conspiracy theorists. I have often found your comments on this blog to be thoughtful, on-point and interesting but this time I am afraid you have gone paranoid on us.

If you want to make an accusation, make it. Don't just point out technical issues that neither you nor I are probably qualified to talk about intelligently (concerning how buildings collapse or marks on girders). I want to hear your accusation.

1) If it was not Al-Qeda, then who perpetrated 9-11?
2)Who was in on the conspiracy to do it?
3) How did they accomplish the planning to implicate Al-Qeda in the attack?
4) What did the perpetrators have to gain by this elaborate ruse?
5) Who would gain by having this conspiracy become public?

From your comments, I can guess your answer to some of these questions. I don't want to prejudice those answers though, so I will stop there for now.

Vancouver said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Province of Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Woozle said...

Tim H: I think most hypotheses about the collapses (including the "conspiracy" ones) assume that some or all of the insulation in the affected area was stripped away by the impact. It wouldn't have mattered if it was asbestos or not. (Also... "not a shred of evidence that insulating buildings with asbestos was harmful to human health"? Is he proposing some sort of environmentalist conspiracy, here?)

Also, as I mentioned earlier, even the NIST admitted that the metal never got red hot. The current "official" hypothesis requires that the metal got hot enough to sag, which (due to a tragic design flaw) caused the entire building to collapse... despite the fact that they were never able to get their physical models to do so. (With the computer simulations, they just "tweaked" the parameters until they got the results they wanted, then put on their flight suits and announced victory.)

DoctorB: "Pointing out anomalies or inconsistencies while leaving it up to the fertile imagination of your audience to come up with who or why someone would do this is a hallmark of conspiracy theorists."

This is a common objection, and it doesn't make sense to me. Why is it necessary to advance an alternative explanation in order to point out that the given one doesn't work? If I can demonstrate the likelihood of my client's innocence, do I also have to catch the real killer before my client can go free? (I'm not saying the hijackers are innocent; the metaphor here is that in the courtroom, you are not required to find an alternative theory in order establish that the current one is false if you have sufficient evidence for the latter.)

We don't yet know what happened; we just know that it can't have happened the way they said it did -- and therein lies the need for a proper investigation.

"Don't just point out technical issues that neither you nor I are probably qualified to talk about intelligently."

Oooh, the "don't worry your purty little head, everything's under control" objection. First of all, I reject this suggestion; it's basically "argument from authority", and I've already explained why I believe the primary authorities to be wrong.

Second, I'm not just going on my own opinions; if every architect said it was reasonable for the twin towers to come down, then I would withdraw my objections (or, at least, my approach would be more heavily weighted towards correcting my own misunderstanding, rather than wanting to alert others to what appears to be a rather alarming situation) -- but hundreds of them do not... and their arguments have withstood critical analysis (unlike those of the opposition).

The answer to every one of your whodunnit questions is, basically, "I don't know". If you really want me to speculate, I'll speculate -- with the understanding that such speculation is entirely tangential to the point I am trying to make.

...but shouldn't you have to answer my questions first, to explain how the official story could possibly be true?

Tim H. said...

Woozle, my impression was that the asbestos replacement was inferior in both adhesion and thermal performance. Asbestos in place is harmless, much damage was done by abatement programs, the sort of thing that happens when attorneys attempt science. The essay also has the effect of distracting conspiracy buffs.

DoctorB said...

Woozle,

To extend your courtroom analogy, for someone to reopen a settled legal matter, they must be able to supply an alternative explanation of the crime. That means they have to be able to at least suggest someone other than the convicted (in this case AlQeda) had means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime. The only truthers who have tried to answer this question have veered off into crazyland with Loose Change (yes, I have watched the original version) which is why I believe you are ducking it.

You are being disingenuous when you claim to have no idea about any of my questions. Your hints have suggested that you think the CIA has traitorous members who are so evil that they will kill thousands of American citizens, keep an airtight conspiracy and kill anyone who they think will talk. Your frequently-cited anomalies page has as its clear implication that someone planted explosives in WTC 7 and the towers as well. I think both of these hinted suggestions are unlikely in the extreme. Planning and carrying out these schemes would be orders of magnitude harder than the story that AlQeda members learned to fly jets enough to fly them into buildings. Occam's Razor applies.

Interesting that you chide me for argument from authority, then use your survey page to... argue from authority. I am not convinced that a self-selected group of people signing a petition saying they are professionals qualifies as the "hundreds" of architects you cite. Show me a survey of architects who were selected by someone other than a truther website and we can start a conversation about architects and 9-11.

On your last point, I have said that my training is in history and my experience is in IT. I do not have the experience, knowledge, or expertise to comment on why WTC 7 collapsed the way it did, or why metal was pouring out of the towers. I have to trust in the evaluations of professionals and the process of reciprocal accountability to bring out the truth. You clearly think that the oversight aspect of this process has been subverted, but again I think you need to supply a possible explanation for how someone could succeed in such a far-ranging effort. If it is so obvious that the anomalies you cite make it "impossible" for 9-11 to have happened under the official explanation, you should be able to convince any reasonable professional in the field of your position.

Woozle said...

Tim B: A more thorough analysis of the link you posted, and the issues it raises, is here. Glad I took the time to look into that -- it's a total anti-enviro, pro-asbestos hit piece.

Summary: whether the replacement insulation was more difficult to use or apply is irrelevant; it had to pass the same time-based safety tests -- and it was mostly stripped off by the collision. Asbestos is nasty, dangerous stuff, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something (probably asbestos).

DoctorB:

"for someone to reopen a settled legal matter, they must be able to supply an alternative explanation of the crime."

Who said this matter was settled? Not the victims' families, nor the firefighters and first responders, nor the architects and engineers and airplane pilots who have looked into it, nor even many "Senior Military, Intelligence Service, Law Enforcement, and Government Officials". So who closed the investigation?

Oh, right -- the Bush administration.

News flash: Fox panel declares henhouse murder investigation closed; mysterious hen disappearance was elaborate suicide pact, ending in oral assault on innocent fox bystander.

You claim I am being disingenuous, while you attempt to change the subject -- instead of answering my actual criticisms, you imagine what you think I believe, and then attack that.

Not biting, sorry.

"I have to trust in the evaluations of professionals and the process of reciprocal accountability to bring out the truth."

Then why don't you trust these professionals, and these -- or at least give them a fair hearing? How do you choose which professionals to trust?

"...you should be able to convince any reasonable professional in the field of your position."

I don't personally know any architects, engineers, airline pilots, government officials, or members of other relevant professions (my background is also primarily IT) -- but if you can find me one who is willing to discuss the matter at length, I will be happy to do so.

Woozle said...

P.S. When I was listing all the groups who hadn't closed the 9/11 investigation, I forgot to mention one rather important group: The 9/11 Commission. Several of its members have stated that they believe it was compromised and its conclusions a whitewash; one member (Senator Max Cleland) resigned in disgust early on, when it quickly became apparent that Bush was blocking access to important evidence and documents.

CulturalEngineer said...

Dr. Brin,

Thank you again, and I'd like to offer support for your point I cite below:

I understand the desire to offer fresh political structures. But the chance of something prim and utopian being implemented are nil. What interests me is practical methodologies to make existing Enlightenment institutions work better...

Very good point! (As is your conclusion regarding light and transparency without which rational decision are impossible.)

The likelihood of sufficient agreement to support the creation of fundamental new structures is unlikely... which is why they normally are only consciously put together after wars, revolutions, famines or other such major upheavals.

Further, any assumption that a single political tool or idea, or even an infinite collection of them could ever create some utopia is pure fantasy.

All complex/chaotic systems are inherently unstable. All living systems, whether a cell or society, are complex/chaotic systems whereby criticality (a state space between order and chaos) is necessary for health.

SO, I'm an extreme cynic on utopias. In fact, my ex-wife always used to call me the "WPS"er... In any analysis I'd always assume the Worst Possible Scenario and try to figure out how to avoid it... forget looking for perfection!

This is why I've searched for a tool that requires no government approval, no massive political movement or decision, no force, no imposition and not even much effort.

It's a seed only needing water and light. Not a forest to be shipped in by a fleet of trucks by government edict.

In fact, as infrastructure, one might say it's part of... "the seeding of NEW playing fields for future competitive fecundity"

The opportunity I seek for Chagora is not based on an assumption that it can't compete in the marketplace without some special assistance or some imposition by an external force.

It's much more prosaic, I'm afraid.

The microtransaction is a hot area of interest in Internet and Social Media circles as I'm sure you're aware. Facebook, Google, PayPal and other major players are working diligently in this field.

I self-funded development of the basic platform for Chagora, then lost the home equity line at launch with the credit crunch so had no funds for PR or administration and have been scrambling ever since just to get the idea out that this is a better approach.

I believe Chagora is the best model for this from almost every angle... benefit to the users on BOTH sides of the transaction as well as to civilization as a whole. And that it is financially practical.

Just want a chance to put it out there. No one has to use it. But this DNA design deserves a shot before it's overwhelmed by designs which may be LESS beneficial and actually inhibit needed social repair.

I think there are some self-reinforcing opportunities, however, once it's there, for it to be used to add HEAT to what is sometimes a very chilling LIGHT

The problems with competition I refer to relate (we see again) to imbalances which limit the ability of needed innovation to take place... NOT to a new idea needing imposition because it couldn't survive otherwise.

But ideas must have air...

I'm trying to provide air without turning into a blowhard... not always easy.

DoctorB said...

Thanks, Woozle, for making the deep comments of this thread a learning experience. I appreciate the chance to get an inside look into this particular conspiracy theory.

I believe we have devolved however into rhetorical circles. You feel that I have not answered your criticisms and I feel that you have given me nothing beyond vague inconsistencies to base a reexamination of the 9-11 core facts on.

I am no fan of the Bush administration. I think they were the most dangerous and damaging administration in my lifetime (and maybe in history). The only thing that saved the country in my opinion was their amazing incompetence.

I am always willing to change my opinion about something when I have seen sufficient evidence. The thing about the web is that all it takes is someone with a crazy idea to set up a website saying anything they want. Of the ones you linked, the pilots site seems mainly concerned with hawking videos (which makes them suspect). The politicians site looks to have been based off a survey (most of their statements are identical) and wants to investigate this as an example of the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy. Max Cleland's resignation from the 9-11 commission is also linked to the Bush administration's pathological secrecy.

I think it likely they were hiding something. Perhaps Michael Moore was right that it was the spiriting out of the country of Saudi nationals (which supports Brin's favorite conspiracy theory). Perhaps they had more evidence that could have prevented the attacks than we have heard. Maybe they don't want the public to know if the PA aircraft was shot down. The political war that would precede and follow the kind of investigation that would reveal these secrets is not worth fighting for this marginal gain in knowledge.

If however the truthers could show that the CIA and the Bush Administration demolished the WTC buildings, and faked the downing of the flight over Pennsylvania then it would be the biggest scandal in American history. Anything that explosive would be very hard to hide. All it would take is one person to make their fortune by blowing the top off it to put the whole thing out in public. That is why I don't think it happened that way.

This conversation has led me to make a mental note to look when I see something in reputable places about 9-11 and what we still do not know about the attacks. It will take a lot more than I have seen so far for me to give up my skepticism that anyone other than AlQeda perpetrated the attack. They had means, motive and opportunity and claimed responsibility. In a messy world that doesn't yield absolutes, in which even experts don't have perfect knowledge of how systems operate under stress, its still the best explanation I have heard.

Thanks again for the interesting discussion.
DoctorB

Tim H. said...

Woozle, the issuepedia link really said nothing, except they didn't like Hogan's essay. The environmental movement is entirely too influential to be exempt from criticism. The fact is, asbestos was mishandled by the EPA, and thousands of people were exposed by abatement policy.

David Brin said...

Cultural: Microtransactions are a fecund area that is terribly under-developed. I am involved in philanthropic discussion groups and our family participates in some micro-help programs where we make small loans to poor entrepreneurs and regularly get paid back. Frankly, I am amazed that micropayments haven't progressed much farther.

Look, a lot of good ideas only need a little nurturing, that they aren't getting. I have patented a dozen totally new techniques for online interaction, and I cannot even get a small group together to do ad hoc experiments on it. http://www.holocenechat.com Everybody says: "If it was as good as it looks, somebody else would have done it by now." We live in a very bizarre "renaissance."

Woozle said...

Re Holocene Chat: You know I didn't say that, Dr. B ;-). I went and set up a wiki page about it, and started making notes based on your presentation -- but ran out of time. I haven't even had time to get down to work on my Brilliant Idea for Fixing Everything™...

DoctorB: Just questioning the official story is all I ask, at this point (I've lowered my standards), and you seem to be doing that. I'll keep collecting evidence.

Tim H.: The Issuepedia link was my writing, and it made several specific points. I can enumerate them if you still don't see them.

Woozle said...

DoctorB (again): I've figured out what bothers me about your contention that a successful challenge to the existing theory requires an alternative theory that is similarly detailed.

My contention is that many of the supposed details in the "official story" are simply made up, since they cannot be defended with the evidence presented.

In order to compete on that playing field, since I do not have all the information I would consider necessary to actually draw a firm conclusion about what happened, I would also have to make stuff up.

You seem to be saying that the other side is allowed to get away with making up stuff, since this makes their case more detailed and apparently more credible to you -- but I feel reasonably confident that were I to do the same thing, you would quickly hold up my conjectures and speculation as Truther lunacy, and consider yourself victorious.

Is this fair?

Robert said...

In this entire discussion on the 9/11 "conspiracy" I have not seen a single argument stated that negates my own argument concerning conspiracies being an opiate for the intellectual masses who are replacing God with the Powers That Be.

I suspect we could easily recreate the very situation that caused the Twin Towers to collapse if we took a high-rise building of similar design as the Twin Towers and flew an airplane with lots of fuel in it into the structure. There were multiple points of heating: the initial impact sent percussion waves through the structure which weakened key points, but not sufficiently to cause an immediate collapse. Add in burning fuel, continuing to burn for an extended period of time, and you have metal that is warmed and thus softened for an extended period of time while under constant stress. As such, several hours after the impacts, the buildings collapsed.

If it were a thermite detonation, then the building would have collapsed immediately. Thermite isn't a slow-burning fuel. It's fast and furious and its effects would have been felt fairly quickly.

If the building's fire suppression gear had been up to the task of quickly (within 20 minutes) extinguishing burning airline fuel and keeping it extinguished despite possible electrical sparks and the like, then it is entirely probable that the Twin Towers would not have collapsed. It is also likely the buildings would have been destroyed at a later time because structurally they would have been unsound, and it's not like you could just use helicopters to lift the upper portions of the building away from the main structure and then rebuild.

Was 9/11 preventable? Yes. I like to think that if the Presidential elections had gone differently, if Al Gore had won or if Bush had won the popular vote in addition to the electoral vote, then there would have been less distraction out there and the warnings would have been heard, rather than drowned out by discontent. But I very much doubt that Bush created 9/11. He used it, yes. But using something for your own gain isn't the same as being behind it from the get-go.

Rob H.

David McCabe said...

US tax amnesty deadline on offshore accounts prompts rush. There's nothing explicit in the article about how long this has been in coming—apparently the settlement took place in August—but it's nice to know the administration is looking out and shedding light.

Woozle said...

Robert said: "In this entire discussion on the 9/11 "conspiracy" I have not seen a single argument stated that negates my own argument concerning conspiracies being an opiate for the intellectual masses who are replacing God with the Powers That Be."

I'm not sure how one would go about refuting such a claim; proving a negative is notoriously difficult. What is your evidence for this claim?

When you offered your theory earlier, I said:

This seems backward to me. Even if you look only at the most wacko conpiracists, they are questioning the established order -- the "truth" given by the people "in control" -- not embracing it.

Furthermore, it seems to me that most people who reject conspiracy theories are taking comfort from the belief that the people "in control" are benevolent, if not always competent; they are the ones who "want someone ... to be in control of things".

But maybe you're thinking of a specific set of "conspiracy theories" that haven't occurred to me.


Does that not negate your argument?

Robert said...

Your argument doesn't exactly refute mine. What your argument states is that people are replacing the existing state with an uber-state that is able to pull off global conspiracies without anyone turning on their global masters and revealing the truth.

This in effect replaces not only God, but the existing government structures with an uber-organization that manipulates everything. And ultimately it is impossible to disprove a conspiracy because even cold hard scientific facts can be denied by conspiracy theorists as being lies created by the PTB to enforce their will.

To put it another way, the Flat Earthers believe that the world is flat, and that pictures from space and all of that are faked. The science is a lie from the PTB. And no matter how much science you use to disprove the flat earth theory, the Flat Earthers will refuse to believe because in their belief structure, science itself is a lie.

How can you refute such an argument? When facts and logic and science are ignored while blind faith holds supreme? You cannot. And this is the same exact belief structure that empowers the other conspiracy theorists, be it the people who insist the Lunar Landings were faked, people who claim that the government was behind 9/11, or even those sad individuals who refuse to believe Barack Obama was born in the United States of America.

Rob H.

Woozle said...

Robert said "What your argument states is that people are replacing the existing state with an uber-state that is able to pull off global conspiracies without anyone turning on their global masters and revealing the truth."

Ummm... no. Where did I say that?

"When facts and logic and science are ignored while blind faith holds supreme? You cannot. And this is the same exact belief structure that empowers the other conspiracy theorists..."

If we're talking about "9/11 Truth", then it sounds like you're making a similar assumption to that made by some of the folks over at LessWrong when I brought this up. The particular set of objections I am arguing are matters of factual determination -- evidence -- not matters of faith or opinion -- and it is solely on that basis that I have been defending them.

If we're just talking about birthers, creationists, etc., then I think I can agree with you -- they believe what they believe because, deep down, it's what they believe. I call this ideological protectionism, and it is a serious problem in American society.

David Brin said...

Again, I think some conspiracies are possible.

Indeed, I find the standard explanation for the Bush years "moronic incompetence combined with obdurate dogmatism and opportunistic venality"... to be wholly inadequate to explain the plain and simple fact that the United States experienced a perfect decline in ALL measures of national health. The standard model strains credulity, since they should have done something beneficial to America, even by accident (!) somewhere along the way.

The disappearance of half of the $12 Billion in raw CASH that was sent to Iraq show be enough to set off alarm bells.

What is not necessary is to go all Hollywood about this, with droves of Blofeldian henchmen exerting fanaticism plus uncanny competence toward betraying their country, ideals and all their own families. Real conspiracies tend to be more tight knit and banal.

ALSO, the "henchmen" of the Bushites numbered in the millions of neocons and fundie rednecks, but these were nearly all SINCERE! Sincerely stupid, yes, in following the Murdochian propaganda rationalizations into the grand betrayal of Culture War.

But dig it... in their millions, these henchmen did not need to be particularly competent, or aware of their betrayal. Indeed, their incompetence and obduracy made them perfect for their assigned roles.

Now THAT is how to run a conspiracy!

Heck you want a 9/11 smoking gun? Am I the only one calling for investigation of the Bushites' first six months, when (I hear) they re-assigned FBI agents away from other duties to look for that missing Clintonite "smoking gun"? Proof of enough official wrongdoing to actually send ONE Clinton era official to jail?

Failure to find that smoking gun was a glaring broken promise that should have been used against those guys, politically. However the diversion of FBI & other resources for the search? During the run-up to 9/11?

That should have been prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

Brin tells us that the essay "Will moderate conservatives perform their own "Miracle of '47"?" summarizes what he wanted to say.

So let's start by debunking that essay.

Brin gets history completely 100% utterly wrong. In reality, 1947 marked the year when Republicans finally sold their souls to gain power.

From 1947 onwards, the Republican party became the party of HUAC and witch-hunts.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gabler30-2008nov30,0,1009632.story

Brin gets history so badly wrong that he charts the rise of Richard Nixon from the 1960s. In reality, Richard Nixon first achieved political prominence with his role as a key member of Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee.

It was Nixon's reputation as a witch-hunter of phantom commies that forced Einsenhower to take him on as running mate to appease the right wing of the Republican party.

http://www.americanheritage.com/blog/200610_13_557.shtml

Far from being a "miracle," the year 1947-1948 marked the descent of the Republican party into organized lies, character assassination, witch hunts, smears, accusations of treason, mob hysteria, and crazed attacks on their political enemies as not just wrong but un-American.

http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/20th/1940s/huac.html

The true "miracle" of '47 was the discovery by Republicans of the tremendous (and sinister) power of smears like "Twenty Years of Treason" against the people who had supposedly lost Eastern Europe (and 2 years later, China) to Communism.

This was a dark miracle indeed, the kind of "miracle" you encounter when a lynch breaks into a jail and hangs an innocent man from a tree.

The entire history of the modern Republican party and modern conservatism was set in 1947. From that year forward, American conservatism stopped meaning fiscal responsibility and respect for individual liberty. From 1947 on, American conservatism meant the witch-hunt, the innuendo, the HUAC interrogation under bright lights and the scrutiny of the press. After 1947, the leaders of the Republican party became not Senator Taft but Richard Nixon and Roy Cohn and Joseph McCarthy and their intellectual heirs.

All the great figures of modern conservatism got their start in Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts.

Ronald Reagan?

He first rose to political prominence as the instigator and head of Hollywood's infamous blacklist in 1947, when Reagan was elected head of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947. In fact, Ronald Reagan met his second wife when she got blacklisted as a suspected pinko and went to see Reagan to plead to get off the blacklist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_blacklist

Richard Nixon?

The earliest and most fervent of the House Un-American Activities Committee members in 1947. Later, Nixon became the brains behind McCarthy's thuggish destruction of the constitution.

Karl Rove?

He was one of Richard Nixon's most valued "dirty tricks" operatives. And where did Nixon learn all his dirty tricks? You guessed it -- from Senator Joseph McCarthy.

http://www.counterpunch.org/madsen1101.html

When you look across the modern conservative political landscape, you see former McCarthy operatives and former Nixon dirty tricksters as far as the eye can see. The techniques for subverting justice and destroying the American way of "innocent until proven guilty" initially invented by Joe McCarthy were subsequently refined by Richard Nixon and his underlings and later raised to a fine art by Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43. From the Willy Horton smears to the Swift Boat lies, we can trace the entire history of the Republican party's rise to power back to the sadistic and brutal Big Lie techniques pioneered by Joseph McCarthy.

The "miracle of '47" indeed!

David Brin said...

He's baaaaaaaack!

Articulately stupid, as always.

Since the whole "1947" article wasn't ABOUT the republican party in that year, at all, but about how the dems rescued themselves from possible political suicide, kept themselves relevant and thus paved the way for Truman's upset victory in 1948.

That victory rocked the goppers back so hard that they had to turn to a moderate as standard bearer in 52 and 56. True, Ike was saddled with Nixon, but by most measures he was a way above average president and in some ways miraculous.

We got past the worst of the McCarthy era, in part, because the dems were sufficiently anti-communist -- but decent and sane -- to weather the storm and because Ike kept cutting off his own party's worst elements at the knees... not as quickly or well as he ought to have done (!) but enough so that we got past the madness.

But hold... what am I doing? Answering THAT guy?

Naw. I was talking to you guys. He's just a putz.

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Woozle said...

"The disappearance of half of the $12 Billion in raw CASH that was sent to Iraq should be enough to set off alarm bells."

How about the 2.3 trillion dollars that Rumsfeld reported missing on 9/10/2001? (news clip included in Loose Change) Of course, that could have been one or more accounting errors, which isn't quite on the same order of awful as sending bricks of cash to a hostile country and leaving them unguarded... even if it is ~200 times as much money... but you're right, people should have been screaming about either one of those abuses. Yet they get away with both of them?

"Am I the only one calling for investigation of the Bushites' first six months, when (I hear) they re-assigned FBI agents away from other duties to look for that missing Clintonite "smoking gun"?"

Indeed, that is one of the points raised repeatedly by "truthers": Several of the hijackers-to-be were under investigation by the FBI and others, and were either hampered or pulled off the case -- by orders "from the top".

I've completed my review of Loose Change, and I do not see any massive involvement of military except for the apparent re-deployment of the interception force to participate in "war games" far away from the scene of the crime. I always took this as pointing towards orders from the top, and different divisions not having enough of a "big picture" view to put the pieces together and notice that this left DC and NYC undefended. No military complicity is stated, and without knowing more about the command structure it would be difficult to say whether any (or how many) top officers would have needed to cooperate or at least not notice anything.

To me, the "truther" evidence does not point towards any kind of vast conspiracy with Evil Henchmen, but towards a small cabal of top Bushites, surrounded by a protective layer of greedy and morally bankrupt semi-loyalists.

(The military is also somewhat implicated by the military-grade nanothermite found in the WTC dust -- something not mentioned in LC, possibly because the paper hadn't been published yet -- but hell, maybe Blackwater had the necessary clearance to get hold of it.)

Tony Fisk said...

If you want an army of efficient, reliable co-conspirators, then just hire the guys that handled Roswell...

I think I saw parts of Loose Change once. My impression was one of a grab bag of every conceivable conspiracy involving 9/11 that you could imagine, and then some. All presented without any coherence or suggestion of what the conspiracy was trying to achieve.

I was left with the impression that anyone who seriously believed any of this was three parts barking.

... which is precisely the conclusion that someone seeking to cover up certain aspects of 9/11 might want to promote.

Too much second-guessing and too little signal/noise. I concede: 'they' can have that round.

serryxop: A collective noun for conspiracy theories

tacitus2 said...

In general, the suffix "-er" has become shorthand for sloppy journalists. Birthers, Deathers, Speechers, Tea Baggers...and so forth. All are attempts to encapsulate an idea and define it by its least rational proponants. Its kind of like the previous sloppy journalistic suffix "-Gate" (Remember Troopergate, Travelgate, etc....I am waiting for the Sec Defense to do something dubious so we can be treated to Gates Gate).

The origins of "-er" might be "Bircher", but who knows.

Most "-er" causes are from the odd fringes of Conservative land, but the Truthers are harder to label. I guess more are from the Progressive end of the political spectrum, but like Laroushniks ("nik" was the sloppy Journo suffice before -gate) they are sort of incoherent in many cases.

People who are genuinely curious about the 9/11 events are one thing. I have enough interest, for instance, in the Kennedy assasination to have waded through the Warren report and any number of odd screeds.

But a genuine belief that W and crew orchestrated 9/11? Well, it is a better example of disordered left leaning thinking than what our genial host held up as an example.*

Tacitus2

*and btw, my money was that it was gonna be the undercover Acorn videos. Man, really serving the inner city community by helping set up brothels. Beatings and gonorrhea being the general byproducts of same.

matthew said...

I interrupt the conspiracy-talk for a moment with something entirely different.

Good slideshow of space pictures.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Out-of-This-World.html#

Click on the photo gallery link in the article.

In other places, folks post Lolcats to break up an intense thread. Here @ Brinland, we post amazing pictures of Sol eclipsed by Saturn. :)

CulturalEngineer said...

Dr. Brin,

You're on to fundamentals with Holocene!

Sooner-or-later one or more of its elements will be implemented in one way or another. The role and more importantly limits of human attention (related to Dunbar's Number btw), proximity, reputation, etc... and the need for translating these characteristics and capabilities for this new landscape should make that inevitable.

I feel the same way about the import of the micropayment as a fundamental of speech. It's a proximity substitute necessary for frequent participation as individual nodes of opinion on individual issues.

It seems that we both see value in looking to our roots to find better ways to engineer our futures.

While I'm no utopian, I'll admit to considerable naivete. I assumed that all that was needed was a few e-mails off to Google or some similar entity and they, immediately recognizing the value, simplicity and import of the model would be sending me money, teams of help, and a documentary crew to put together the amazing story of Chagora's founding for eventual theatrical release and priceless historical record!

They must have lost the email.

Your statement "... and I cannot even get a small group together to do ad hoc experiments on it..." gives me some suspicion that while surely not as naive as me, you may also have expected greater understanding and enthusiasm from the powers that be.

It also seems we both may have come face to face with what may be a great truth:

"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats." Howard Aiken...

But enough lamentation.

ON TO A PRAGAMATIC SUGGESTION!
... a small idea... a flashing neuron not to be ignored... since large oaks from little acorns grow... just like the Internet itself!

A series of experiments DOable because it's FUN and COMPELLING for those experimenters themselves!

How about working together to fiddle with BOTH our ideas by hosting some fun little Issue-Oriented Debates.

Motivate experimenters by getting them chatting about things that fire 'em up!

There are any number of possible topics (NOT candidates or parties at this stage and not necessarily even with immediate political relevance).

E.g. the conversation which seems to have developed here regarding 9/11 and conspiracies.

Two or more advocates in structured debate, each for the benefit of some related organization or interest.

A small test event perhaps, but available online realtime (audio only or full a/v) for any public interested.

With this simple scenario and costing close to nothing I believe its possible to test, promote, expand AND generate self-reinforcing momentum for both Chagora AND Holocene.

Taking them one at a time...

Chagora, of course, is about actual monetary contribution. It should be possible to attract at least some small number (even if only a few hundred) who could be willing to throw $20 into a Chagora account with the intent to disperse it during an actual event to one side or the other. Further, Chagora's debate rules as presently conceived (and definitely not in stone) allow for user recision of contribution within some prescribed time limit for various reasons... avoiding information cascades being an important one.

Holocene it seems to me would operate very well side-by-side in such an experiment by utilizing one or more of its elements in a Conversation Plane focussed on the event! Users would be enthusiastic about encouraging or discouraging others in their contributions. That orientation aspect and reputation slider should be fascinating sources for examination of the decision process.

Here's a link to a piece on Google's foray into this area
http://tinyurl.com/mokphb . I believe it's the wrong model and will limit possibilities for future evolution of this landscape.

David Smelser said...

Robert said: "In this entire discussion on the 9/11 "conspiracy" I have not seen a single argument stated that negates my own argument concerning conspiracies being an opiate for the intellectual masses who are replacing God with the Powers That Be."

I'm not sure it needs to be an opiate replacement for god.

In the Blackswan, Taleb talks about about how we are hard wired to find simple after-the-fact narratives to explain behavior. Brin has written about consciousness coming from the ability to run multiple parallel thought experiments and comparing them to reality. It just seems to me that it is biologically easier to run the conspiracy thought experiment than any more complex experiment.

Woozle said...

"It just seems to me that it is biologically easier to run the conspiracy thought experiment than any more complex experiment."

Then why do the majority of people prefer the official story?

(Maybe I'm missing your point here, but it sounds like you're arguing that the conspiracy meme only survives because it is somehow easier to swallow or understand than the official story.)

David Brin said...

Cultural: I share your belief that better discourse is crucial for developing a mature, problem-solving culture. This requires movement in new directions. I do not claim - as some do - that Facebook and Twitter lobotomize the public. But more sophisticated discourse should not be actively prevented, which is what happens now with almost every synchronous OR nonsynchronous site, online, where minds are supposed to meet.

See:
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2008/12/23/david_brin_google/index.html

...and my Google Tech Talk, in which I clearly had too much caffeine(!) offering a big perspective about problem-solving and "discourse" in the modern age: http://tinyurl.com/yy7yxm

The accompanying slides are at: http://www.slideshare.net/davidbrin/

Alas, trying to proselytize these things... and invent actual, palpable ways to implement better discourse (http://www.holocenechat.com)... has accomplished nothing except sap time away from writing the novels that my fellow citizens would clearly prefer to have from me, and that would pay my kids college bills.

Hence, while I wish efforts such as yours much luck, unless you know some great Java and Flash designers with some spare time, I am afraid I won't personally be able to be much help.

But keep beating the drum here! You never know,

David Smelser said...

Woozle asked: Then why do the majority of people prefer the official story?

my response: I'm not sure how many even know what is in the official report.

I've always considered that the majority seem to prefer the Bush story ("the terrorists are evil people who hate us because we are free") or some variant of it. This just seems to be another easy to digest narrative -- just another "conspiracy" with different actors. This meme has the advantage that the enemy is 'over there'.

Anonymous said...

David, once you get to the Star of David and read the labels on the six points, you can forget saying this is a 'left' loon production.

This is from one of those vectors far, far away from left and right -- one that doesn't go through the center at all.

rewinn said...

Hey Doc - no need to feel defensive about this posting. It's fair and not even harsh.

Sometimes a solution to mind-numbing Sheepleganda is to find things people can do that is even marginally helpful; or better still, helping THEM figure out something that is even marginally helpful. As any coach knows, even a small success can open a mind to the possibility of real success, and a series of small successes can breed a winning attitude.

In contrast, conspiracy theories and the like reinforce the feeling that We The People are helpless pawns of greater powers. This breeds an anti-success attitude, which must be very helpful to the actual/factual greater powers; I'm sure Cheney & Co LOVE the 911Troofers both for making the "lefties" look stooopid and for sapping hope for change from non-lefties.

Conspiracy theories also seem to reduce politics to passive entertainment: circuses but no bread. Rather than actually achieve anything, we feel that we've done our part by organizing a rally that got 3 lines on page 47 that accomplish nothing, not even education. I am reminded of the burning trash bin at the "Battle for Seattle" that (it seems) got more air time than all the thoughtful criticism of WTO.

(On the plus side, isn't it a relief that the LaRouchie's have (temporarily) allied with the Republicans in attacking Obama? It was embarrassing to accidentally stand next to one of them agitating against Bush!)

We just have to have faith in "We The People". Acts that build communities tend to develop pro-community values. It's a messy process working from the bottom up but thank goodness we are in an age where the costs of community building are so low that, so far from being limited to the community within one day's ride, we have access to so many communities that limiting ourselves to a manageable number is a problem.

David Brin said...

There are still LaRouchies?

Har! Next you'll tell me there are Charthaginians!

My big, central CORE message about how individuals should act to save their own world is about the power of individual action(proxy power: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BUK41Y

ANyone unwilling to pay 49 cents for this isn't going to help anyway....

Woozle said...

The fork of 9/11 Truth that spends most of its time and energy promoting and attending rallies (and selling self-promotional stuff) leaves me uninspired; I wish them luck, but I suspect (has there been any science on this?) that people holding picket signs don't do a whole lot to change anyone's mind.

The fork of 9/11 Truth that collects and analyzes data and demands that science be accountable to rational criticism, regardless of the source -- and that government be accountable to science -- strikes me as very much in line with the idea of individual empowerment.

When most people dismiss "truthers", it often seems pretty clear to me (maybe I'm misinterpreting) that they are dismissing the idea that individuals can ascertain facts without help from the authorites, and possibly even dismissing the idea that individuals have any right to question the facts blessed by said authorities.

opit said...

'Loons of the Left'
Nothing like a 'fair and unbalanced perspective.' At least you're honestly unwilling to consider everything impartially : but are ready to subscribe to a false orientation which considers right-wing thought to be left-wing opinion!
Anarchism is 'left wing.' Authoritarianism is right wing. That's why Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and a catalog of military invasion worldwide.
Once upon a time it was called 'White Man's Burden.' I understand that's not politically correct these days.
Want a real difference of opinion to give balance to your ranting ? Knock yourself out
http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/inicio.htm

There is an entry on a post in which I cite two farmers about agricultural dysfunction which opens the topic : an infomercial which is both entertaining and informative.
http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2009/08/environment-sickening-practices.html
You might want to consider the fruits of rampant commercialism. South and Central America were test sites for corporate farming decades ago. The results were atrocious.

CulturalEngineer said...

Dr. Brin,

Great links and material! Will want to say more but for now only a note...

I recently attended an event Participation Camp '09 at NYU on my way to the Personal Democracy Forum earlier this summer.

Growing out of this event a project called OpenKollab is involved in developing a platform to facilitate other open governance and other publicly oriented projects by providing a place to present their ideas, find collaborators, funds (and/or developing their own internal currencies of exchange), etc.

Out of this has come a group called Radical Inclusion defining itself:
"Re-Imagining Collaboration! Radical Inclusion is an international group of change facilitators, marketing experts and internet enthusiasts who are dedicated to using online tools to make collaboration more inclusive, persistent, fun and most of all effective."

I've sent friends there suggestion that Holocene tools would be helpful and to let me know if any programmers interested in such a project. Also that one or more debate type events utilizing both Chagora and elements of Holocene could be an endeavor that brings PR and funds and is something worth thinking about.

I couldn't agree more with your statement
"...looking at today's lobotomizing social nets, avatar worlds and dismal "collaborationware," any rational oddsmaker would have to favor the grouches by a 10-point spread"

The few chat room synchronous meetings I've participated in to get anything done are near impossible.

On a related note, at the PdF there was a talk by Douglas Rushkoff largely related to his recent piece in Edge Economics is NOT a Natural Science on the need for new economic forms which prompted this response from George Dyson

"How to best transcend the current economic mess? Put Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Elon Musk, Tim O'Reilly, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Nathan Myhrvold, and Danny Hillis in a room somewhere and don't let them out until they have framed a new, massively-distributed financial system, founded on sound, open, peer-to-peer principles, from the start. And don’t call it a bank. Launch a new financial medium that is as open, scale-free, universally accessible, self-improving, and non-proprietary as the Internet, and leave the 13th century behind."

While I don't talk about it much, its always been understood by me that Chagora is more than some donation system... but rather that it can form the backbone of just what Mr. Dyson is talking about.

Totally understand your time situation... no worries... I just keep doing what I'm doing.

I'm one of those foolish amateurs we so very much need for a robust civilization!

rewinn said...

@David Brin:

"LaRouchago Delenda Est!" but unfortunately they're still around, handing out "Whoever the President is, he's Hitler!!!" posters. I'd like to know where the money comes from; is it another Mooney front?

A nice thing about wackos is that they let smart communicators turn the table on them (although the best quote from that event was not the "dining room table" bit, but:

"It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated"

As Frank ably demonstrates, being an effective grownup requires mastery not only of reason but also of the presentation of that reason.

Which brings me to Power of Proxy Advocacy which I will note to my buds at an upcoming Social Networking and Pro Bono program. HOWEVER my 1st impression of the Amazon page was discouraging - 49c is not much money, but ANY charge seems odd for an essay on the internet. What changed my mind the note that all proceeds went to Project Witness which, when I checked it out, had some good indicia of reliability; I'm passing that one around too.

I realize you may have little control over Amazon's page format but it might be worth devising another way to present the work to interested parties.... in your copious spare time of course.

It does seem unfair that the public seems more interested in paying for "The Next Brin Novel" than in "A Better Way To Save Ourselves" - perhaps that could be the basis of your next novel ;-)

@Woozle...
"...(maybe I'm misinterpreting)..."

Yes, you are misinterpreting.

"...dismissing the idea that individuals can ascertain facts without help from the authorites, and possibly even dismissing the idea that individuals have any right to question the facts blessed by said authorities"

No.

You have the right to question anything you want. And we have the right to "dismiss" argumentation based on no facts what-so-ever.

Believe me, I *want* to believe that Bush/Cheney/RummyEtc are so evil that they bombed the WTC (or whatever your theory may be) in order to have the outcome we have all seen, but I also want to believe some Elder Space Race is watching over use benevolently and that my next lotto ticket is a winner. There are no facts sufficiently relevant and probative to overcome the obvious truth: Bush/Cheney took advantage of someone else's crime, the Elder Races will not save us, I have just donated a little cash to public schools. The Will to Believe changes nothing.

Woozle said...

rewinn: "And we have the right to "dismiss" argumentation based on no facts what-so-ever."

...which of course is why I reject much of the official explanation.

(Just wanted to make sure that was clear.)

David Brin said...

Woozle said : "When most people dismiss "truthers", it often seems pretty clear to me (maybe I'm misinterpreting) that they are dismissing the idea that individuals can ascertain facts without help from the authorites, and possibly even dismissing the idea that individuals have any right to question the facts blessed by said authorities."

No Woozle. That's YOU setting up a strawman to dismiss critics. I am THE big proponent of citizen action and the Age of Amateurs, remember? I don't mind those guys being out there, seeking "their truth." If they come up with a smoking gun, they'll be heroes.

But I have one life, I don't have dittoes. I must prioritize. And there are fields to plow that are SO much more likely to seed and bear fruit than following a bunch of dizzy freakazoids who seem 99.99% likely to be either complete loons or else paid Murdochian provocateurs, who are attempting to grow crops by seeding the ground with pebbles.

Opit, you are a bona fide fool. I see, so the essence of the left is anarchism? Ah, I'll be sure to tell that to Mao and Hitler and Stalin, the greatest murderers of all time, who all called themselves "socialists."

Oh... and the libertarians who oppose all foreign wars, but also oppose govt regulation of business... where do THOSe fit in your convenient, strawman?

Dig it, I am fighting the madness of the far-right as hard as I can... indeed, VASTLY more effectively than you. THAT is the direction of our civilizations greatest threat... right now.

But you will NOT keep me from turning a wary eye upon my allies, who happen also to be dogmatists.

DOgmatists who actually believe that the asinine "left-right" axis actually means something.

Cultural... I agree across the board.

Who funds the LaRouchies? Anyone with (1) unlimited funds and (2) a desire to see us tear ourselves apart. Duh.

Does anyone know of a nationwide effort to boycot companies that advertise on Limbaugh?

David Brin said...

A little help? Any of you care to sift-research and come up with an address where I could plausibly send a book to Paul Krugman?

An assistant's email would suffice.

Stefan Jones said...

LaRouche, who amazingly is still alive and perpetually a Democratic presidential candidate despite being far, far to the right, raises money at fundraising tables at airports, colleges, and other venues. They generally attract people through a knee-jerk issue, like fighting drug trafficking or jailing AIDS carriers (back when that was a good way to scare people), promoting nuclear power, or attacking the British royal family (well known drug kingpins!).

Where else does he get money? I don't know. But in the past he's gotten enough to buy time on NYC's PBS station to air bizarre documentaries proposing digging a canal across Africa and putting a woman on Mars.

David Brin said...

Lets be fair. La Rouche was the only guy out there predicting the imminent self-destruction of Yugoslavia, well before it happened. His scenario was psychotic and his reasons were a mix of good history and twilight zone. But he called it and I give points, even when I despise the source.

(Oh, he also predicted it would cause WW III.)

Oh, Krugman is a prof at Princeton... Anybody with contacts there who can get me an assistant's email?

Rob said...

Yes, but Stefan, I thought Mr. Berkeley Breathed had settled that question: Mars needs women. Or mothers. Or women who are mothers!

There are times when I really miss that comic strip.

:-)

I first encountered LaRouche material in Germany, of all places, where all the relevant ranting was translated into German for the use of the tourists in the town I was in (Friedrichshafen). If you think it sounds loco-crazy to Americans...

Tony Fisk said...

@Woozle: go to. My point is simply that things like 'Loose Change' have queered the pitch.

@Cultural Engineer: you re-pique my interest in HC (although my bent runs to javascript and PHP rather than flash and java) I have a couple of notions, but I will shut up for now until I have something to put up.

Has anyone else read about an interesting little first?
man now owns a piece of the meteorite he first saw in space.

Charthaginians? Salt of the Earth! (bad Roman joke)

occam's comic said...

Here is some 11th demsional chess for ya!

"Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) picked up on the legislative overreach and asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net."

He is asking for help if you know of any government contractors that have defrauded the government.

I am starting to really like Rep Grayson, he is doing a fine Mr Smith impersonation.

Woozle said...

Brin says: "No Woozle. That's YOU setting up a strawman to dismiss critics. I am THE big proponent of citizen action and the Age of Amateurs, remember?"

Once again, I was not talking about you. I was actually trying to appeal to your known support for citizen action to help you see one of the reasons why I defend the 9/11 Truth movement -- that we agree on one important aspect of it, i.e. the ability of individuals to participate meaningfully in discourse on Big Issues.

Yes, you are very much the major proponent of that point-of-view, with which I agree firmly, and I apologize for unintentionally implying anything else. 9/11 is a very complex issue, and Blogger comment size is limited (and I do try to avoid monopolizing the thread, believe it or not!), so I often am overzealous in abbreviating my arguments.

I think I can summarize what I would like from you (and everyone else) regarding this point -- and I do realize that I do not have the cred to expect anyone to comply with this wish, but here it is anyway: Please don't lump the entire 9/11 Truth movement in with all other "conspiracy theories". It has its wacky fringe, but there is a core that is intensely evidence-based, rational, and methodical. By dismissing that work along with the loons who give the movement a bad name, you set an example for others to do the same and thereby give cover to those who, at the very least, actively hampered proper investigation of a heinous crime.

I should also mention that it is starting to look like citizen investigation into certain aspects of 9/11 may end up opening the lid on some of the stuff that you (Dr. Brin) are more interested in and have warned about -- bribery and blackmail of Congresspeople in trade for nuclear secrets and other favors, described as "a national security cancer that has metastasized throughout the U.S. government" in this review of an interview (which itself just went online) with ex-FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds in American Conservative magazine.

Stefan Jones said...

Since Krugman has a regular column at the NYTimes, you could send it to it care of them. Or to his university department.

Or ask Charlie Stross! He did a panel discussion with the guy.

David Brin said...

Tony found the Princeton addr for PK. Thanks Tony! I'll see if he answers, first.

Woozle, sigh, let me reiterate. Anyone who seriously wants to pursue the REAL smoking guns about 9/11 -- the disappearing Saudis. The misused FBI agents pre-9/11. The pre-Iraq lies...

... wants nothing to do with gibbering loons who claim that scores or hundreds of sworn US officers were Blofeldian henchmen who deliberately blew up the heart of one of their nation's main cities. They'll stay as far as possible from those nut jobs... ALL of them!

Sure... there have been fruitcakes who later proved to be right. I am happy the 9/11ers have freedom and the web. If they ever prove anything, I'll eat my words.

But I give that a gnat-wings thickness of likelihood, compared to the other likelihoods (1) looniness & (2) Murdochian provocateur shills.

Indeed, if anyone had spent a millionth of the same effort, actually tracking and interviewing every FBI agent who was reassigned by the Bushites, pre-9/11, that would VERIFIABLY have done vastly more good than every calorie that those assholes spent distracting us with paranoid imbecility.

And that is ALL I will say about them.

The left has loons and traitors too.

daveawayfromhome said...

Dr Brin, dont know if you've seen this or not, but it looked right up your alley: a four-directional plot of politicians, not just right/left, but idealist/pragmatist. Yes, you've been saying the same thing, but it's nice to see anyway. Most salient point - no one shown in conservative/pragmatic quadrant.

David Brin said...

Cute effort to create a 2D political axis.

Alas, it makes its point by picking JUST ONE trait of left-vs-right to use as a criterion... personal vs state responsibility for welfare. That is interesting, but it still jumbles and confuses and conflates. Blackwater depends utterly on state-given largesse, but is clearly right wing. Back to the land hippies take personal responsibility but are of the left.

I've analyzed all this before, as you all know. Alas, the site where I kept my "positioning essay" all these years is out of service.

http://www.reformthelp.org/theory/positioning/models.php

Some related material is still at:
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarian3.htm

Should I print here a chunk of stuff about 2 & 3 d political axes? It would use up a lot of comment space. You vote.

Tony Fisk said...

If it's stuff you think has persistence, then I'd print either on your site, or at the earth site, or woozle's wiki (I think he's still talking ;-)

Then leave a link in the comments.

mograbl: collective noun for domestic cats.

Woozle said...

Brin said: "Anyone who seriously wants to pursue the REAL smoking guns about 9/11 -- the disappearing Saudis. The misused FBI agents pre-9/11. The pre-Iraq lies...

... wants nothing to do with gibbering loons who claim that scores or hundreds of sworn US officers were Blofeldian henchmen who deliberately blew up the heart of one of their nation's main cities."


I don't think any of the serious truth movement people do allow themselves to be associated with the latter loons. At least one web site goes to great efforts to identify which "truther" ideas are loony, and to point out the sites/individuals/media known to be promoting them.

And as I said earlier, I wasn't able to find mention of any such vast conspiracy in "Loose Change" (2007 edition). (They even got rid of the pointless "pod theory", yay.) What it did mention, as far as military involvement, was the rather suspicious happenstance that all of the usual interception force just happened to be off doing wargames far away on that same day, the reserves that were available somehow didn't get notified in time, and that Cheney was overheard (by Norm Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, in sworn testimony) confirming an order which (from context) could only have been to withhold fire from the aircraft which hit the Pentagon shortly thereafter.

No Blofeldian thugs or even a fluffy white cat; just the evil mastermind himself given full authority to control the good guys.

Tim H. said...

I suppose Pournelle's political axis better reflects reality, but the left-right spectrum is easier for me to visualize. I saw it as a circle, with political moderates on the near side, and at furthest right and furthest left you'd find NAZIs and bolsheviks giving each other the stink-eye. Here's another mental exercise, think of something done by a politician you like, then try to imagine what you would have thought if a politician you despise had done it.

Woozle said...

Oh, political axes... by all means feel free to post it, let's say, here (either anonymously or you can set up an account as you did on HTYP).

Please note the existing page on this topic, which includes some Brin discourse.

(Is the "ideological" in the page title redundant, do you think?)

hormonal disorders said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

Thanks Woozle. You are valuable.

All: here's a very brief summary of my own alternative political "axis" model. Naturally, I think it is the best one around!

http://www.issuepedia.org/Political_ideological_spectra

Alas, the extended explanation no longer seems to be available at:


and... http://www.reformthelp.org/theory/positioning/models.php


Pity. I put a lot of work into those articles. They could use a new home....

Furthur said...

http://web.archive.org/web/20071012140019/www.reformthelp.org/marketing/positioning/models.php

David Brin said...

See my latest big blog posting at:

http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/

!!

Why there instead of here? The topic, mostly.

Anyway, you guys should find it interesting.

David McCabe said...

Census Worker Hanged: Bill Sparkman Found With "Fed" On Body

Tony Fisk said...

While you didn't directly refer to Dr Joseph as a creation scientist, you did state that his contention that life could not have spontaneously arisen on Earth was one shared with creation science.

I'm a ways from the epicentre, but is that census worker meant to be a McVeigh hit?

Tim H. said...

To me, Dr. Joseph's doubts about life from non-life look like he's kicking a difficult problem out of sight. There had to be enough time for the origin of life somewhere, since we live. If this origin happened in another star system, it was this conceptually difficult life from non-life. Even if this universe is the result of a particularly ambitious alien high energy physics experiment, where did they come from? Not that those wouldn't be great stories, but there was an origin, somewhen or where.

Woozle said...

Dr. Brin I've re-posted Models, Maps and Visions of Tomorrow, since archive.org pages can sometimes be maddeningly slow (and do not, as far as I know, provide any means of commenting).

Let me know if that looks ok to you, and I'll proceed with the rest of the series as time permits.

CulturalEngineer said...

RE Sentient Developments Piece... a very good critique which captures the essence. Panspermia in some form is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis however Joseph's scenario, while not impossible is one of the less likely ways in which it could take place. And does nothing to clear away the mountain of turtles other than proposing that they be drowned in a hypothetical Martian Methane sea.

And...

RE Designing for Debate, Tools of Communication and Building a Better Decision Landscape...

Its a fundamental that the landscape shapes the evolution that takes place upon it.

For that reason, it's critical that standards be established for peer-to-peer interaction upon such a new field of interaction.
SO...

Part of the thought behind this Debate Proposal, in addition to it's obvious potential for publicity and fundraising... is to begin to lay down those standards, rules, protections, etc...

I believe we're talking here about enhancing something very fundamental: association with force ((money representing in a sense, civilization potential energy) and we need to design for rational self-governance and not lizard-brain mob rule.

For instance, I could see how structured discussions say between Ralph Nader and Ron Paul on "What is the Proper Role of Government" could generate a bit of interest... or between Andrew Bacevich and William Kristol on "American Exceptionalism"...

Or pragmatic discussions on how to approach nuclear power, fish vs farmers in California's central valley, or any of a multitude of very good questions hot for some particular segment of society...

Begin to raise the level of debate a bit by encouraging some healthy standards to accompany increased capability of influence and participation made possible by new technologies.

I'd hate to see such a system, conversely used in some exploitative manner promoting stupidity rather than wisdom...

Chagora's foundation concept, Networked Political MicroContribution, like democracy itself, has some scary potentials which, again like democracy, requires that certain standards of civil society prevail as well as some definite rules... e.g. with Chagora LiveDebate my feeling that contribution recision within some timelimit is probably a good idea to encourage deeper thinking and avoid mob behaviour. It's likely other design elements (such as tools such Holocene may offer) could have significant affect on whether crowd wisdom or information cascade results.

I'd hate to throw something like this out there and have Rupert Murdoch, very well capitalized, immediately start putting it together the way he'd like to see it... you know, he'd be hosting debates on whether President Obama should merely be impeached or actually be deported to Africa as an illegal immigrant!

Am I being too paranoid?

Social Media is doing a lot to bring people of shared interest together.

The REAL challenge is designing the landscape to facilitate good working relationships between those that do NOT agree and/or completely mischaracterize each other... in ways that encourage rational and pragmatic approaches and a self-reinforcing culture advancing an Enlightenment mindset.

And to NOT leave them to be exploited by other interests who find profit in conflict for conflict's sake with no interest in rational resolution.

While I completely believe this debate scheme I've got can be much more than merely self-supporting, it's also possible Foundations would be interested in supporting this process to design for responsible debate before it ends up some new Fox Network show, "Teabaggers vs The Commie Socialists" with Glenn Beck debating Lyndon LaRouche while dancing with the stars!

P.S. @Dr. Brin - on additional Holocene work - I've been asked about your position on Open Source? Actually I'm not entirely sure of my own position on it for this as well.

CulturalEngineer (at) gmail (dot) com

Gilmoure said...

re: Census worker found hanged

From the HuffPost:

Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census

Last night's reports of the murder of a US Census worker will bring national attention to the emerging politics of the Census count, something that we've long been worried about at NDN.
In August I posted the following about a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed which signaled the beginning of a new campaign by the right to disrupt the vital Census count next year:

For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the Census, to be conducted next year, from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government (the primary purpose of the every ten year count).
Today the Wall Street Journal is running a well-articulated early salvo in this coming battle by John S. Baker and Elliot Stonecipher. It starts off:
"Next year's census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won't.
Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country--including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of "loser" states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what's going on.

David Brin said...

Tony said: "While you didn't directly refer to Dr Joseph as a creation scientist, you did state that his contention that life could not have spontaneously arisen on Earth was one shared with creation science."

Actually, even that is untrue. What I said they have in common was the trait of disbelieving in life-from-nonlife BECAUSE they posit that a living cell would have to self-assemble completely randomly, out of a soup of primitive chemicals.

This refusal to consider, or even paraphrase, discuss or even mention, successive Selection and Accumulation is definitely shared by Creation Science and merits mention. Note that I later go on to distinguish Joseph from CS in other ways.

Tim, Joseph's particular theory about supernovas is exceedingly poor. As I point out, the solar systems which later go supernova are actually short-lived and extremely poor prospects for life in the first place.

Woozle.... THANKS!! That's a great act of text resurrection.

I removed the "implicit" part. You have permission. But the title really ought to mention my name, with a link to http://www.davidbrin.com

Any chance you can to the other portions posted at the ReformTheLP site?
Like: http://www.reformthelp.org/theory/generalizing/foe.php

Cultural, one proposal I've seen is to recruit 50 "typica;" red and blue Americans into a Reality Show where they actually spend hours LISTENING to each other and calling witnesses. And see if they move toward consensus.

Holocene is meant to develop many open source tools. Nevertheless, it is patented because I feel the patent is a way to draw attention to the fact that NOBODY is doing this stuff!

The census sounds like another won dreous Murdochian "issue".

Robert said...

I'm curious if Dr. Brin still is against a lunar base in light of the discovery that water or the ingredients needed to make fresh water exists on the Moon. Quoting from the article, "A trio of satellites—including India's recently failed lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1—picked up the light signature of water (H2O) or hydroxyl (OH) or both while mapping the moon."

One of the biggest problems with going to Mars is fuel. We need to design an engine that will safely and efficiently transport people to Mars or to anywhere else in the Solar System. While Dr. Brin has long considered Luna to be a dead end... there is now another possibility unfolding: The Moon as a fuel depot.

Consider for a moment the cost of bringing fuel up from the Earth's surface. Now consider the cost of bringing fuel up from the Moon's surface... and the fact that we can make fuel for many of the interplanetary engines we've designed from lunar water and other materials.

Is then Luna a dead end? Or is it a stepping stool into the solar system as a whole?

Rob H.

CulturalEngineer said...

Dr. Brin,

THAT is a VERY COOL IDEA!

With the added hook of people at home participating through live MicroContribution during the event while holding online discussions featuring Holocene enhanced chat tools!

(which also, btw, would allow detailed decision-process-analysis which has independent value in the marketplace)

And one online participant each week can...
Win a BRAND NEW CAR!

(There's no problem with commercial sponsorship so long as it's a neutral process)

It's seems something like that could be entertaining, educational and beneficial for ALL in a sponsorable configuration!

Just spinnin' ideas...

David Brin said...

No one is contending that water exists there just ready to scoop up. They have detected a widely dispersed resonance of individual MOLECULES of water, bonded to the surface regolith.

If it were readily usable, don't you think scientists studying Apollo rocks would have noticed some?

Oh, I suppose you could imagine passing vast amounts of soil through a heater/extractor and getting a steady drip, like from a bootlegger's still. Very difficult, since the chamber would have to be sealed so the H2o doesn't simply evaporate and drift into space. That makes it a batch process and not a continuous one, much more expensive.

I don't see it in the near or medium future.

Lunar polar ice is still the thing to hope for. BTW it was Jim Arnold, who was on my doctoral committee, who first proposed looking for lunar ice!

Problem is, the poles are dynamically harder to reach and leave, by rocket, using up some of the benefit.

Gut instinct? Get it from asteroids. Even better? Phobos. Lovely phobos.

Tony Fisk said...

Nothing skulking in the lunar lagrange points, then? (Not surprising)

TwinBeam said...

The problem with hypothesizing life or life's basis originated in the comets is that - if we assume generating that basis is so exceedingly difficult that is requires astronomical numbers of comets to overcome that difficulty - then it also follows that the basis for life would have arisen in only an infinitesimally small fraction of those comets. How then, were we so lucky as to have it somehow escape and survive to seed the Earth?

Unless there's a mechanism to communicate that basis of life - whatever it is supposed to be - to other comets (thereby somehow proliferating) and then eventually becoming common enough that it happened to be communicated to Earth - then really adding comets doesn't make the arrival of life on Earth any more probable.

Twinbeam said...

A bet on that hung census worker - if/when they solve the case, it'll turn out to be a drug farmer who thought the guy was a little too nosy to be allowed to live.

Gilmoure said...

@ Twinbeam re: hung census worker

Yeah, that was my thought; meth lab or pot field.

gmknobl said...

The sheeple people (ugh, I can't believe I typed that) aren't liberals, at least not by my definition, nor do I believe by the dictionary definition. Maybe in one political definition they are. Then, I guess, I'm not a "liberal" even though I'd say I am (much to Dr. Brin's chagrin).

Jumper said...

When I heard about reports of the "molten steel" at WTC 1 & 2 I thought of uninterruptible power supplies (lead batteries). Pools of lead from UPSs for offices. When I heard about sulfur I simply figured the Port Authority contractors used some crappy sulfur-tainted steel back in the '60s. A little excess sulfur won't weaken steel unless it's in a fire...

Too many people have weighed in on this subject who have no idea of engineering or reality whatever. More responsible sorts merely ask questions and don't presume to answer their own questions.

Jumper said...

My own thoughts on both lunar and Martian water is that at certain depths - apparently not so deep - groundwater is groundwater and permafrost is permafrost. A water well may not even have to be very deep. Ore processing activities might be a bit more brute force than needed. I bet a 200 foot well on the right spot on the moon could vacuum a lot of water vapor per day if it comes to that. If you are willing to drill deeper, even on the moon permafrost should segue to liquid at a mile in depth (roughly! the temperature gradient is not well-researched!) Porosity of the rock is not high. But there is a lot of rock. And I haven't even mentioned fracturing the formations like we do with recalcitrant oil and gas wells on Earth.

Jon S. said...

I have long felt that most conspiracy theories tend to let people feel better about feeling powerless. They can't (or don't want to) believe that great changes can be effected by one or a few people.

For instance, I think that much of the hoopla surrounding the Kennedy assassination came from the gut feeling that something as "great" (read: emotionally resonant) as JFK couldn't possibly be brought low by one random nutjob who wanted to use his Marine Corps skills to impress the KGB (to whom he had applied to be a double agent; they had rejected him as too unstable). Instead, they'd rather believe that the President was killed by a large conspiracy involving (depending on who you talk to) the CIA, labor unions, the Mafia, and the people trying to keep UFOs under cover.

Similarly, people don't want to believe that such a devastating strike against American home soil as 9/11 could possibly have been committed by a small group of fanatics backed by an only slightly larger group of fanatics; they'd prefer to believe that it would require a large conspiracy actually residing in the US.

After all, if the world can be changed by the actions of a few, that kind of takes away their excuses for feeling powerless, doesn't it? :-)

Woozle said...

Jumper: the molten steel was definitely steel, not lead -- or aluminum, as some have suggested. There are photos of steel girders being pulled out of the wreckage with one end still glowing orange-hot. I don't think there's any dispute, even in the official story, about what metal it was.